Friday 18 October 2019

Hope soaring in Cavan as Graham puts his stamp on the re-build

Cavan manager Mickey Graham. Photo: Sportsfile
Cavan manager Mickey Graham. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It's only the first step, but such is the excitement sweeping across Cavan that the supporters would love if the Ulster semi-final against Armagh were on next Sunday, rather than a week later.

Manager Mickey Graham will be taking a more detached view, separating the emotion that followed the win over Monaghan from the reality of what needs to be done to give Cavan their best chance of reaching the Ulster final for the first time since 2001.

All other eight counties - several of them on many occasions - have experienced the province's big days since then, leaving Cavan frustrated on the margins.

The general view was that they would remain there this year too, but all changed last Saturday.

It was a victory that showed how National League results can quite often be misinterpreted.

Cavan's only win came against Roscommon, who later joined them in the relegation chute.

There's always a tendency to dismiss the championship prospects of relegated teams, even when there's evidence that the drop hasn't zapped all positivity.

"It will come right," said Graham after the final-round game against Dublin.

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His upbeat comments were based on the overall campaign, which suggested that there was more to Cavan than results indicated.

They lost the first two games to Galway and Kerry by two and three points respectively, turning in good performances against battle-hardened sides.

Ill-discipline cost them against Galway - at one stage in the second half they had three men in the sin-bin - and they led Kerry by four points at half-time before being reined in.

As often happens promoted teams who don't get a good start in Division 1, Cavan dropped off somewhat after failing to take anything from the opening two games, but they still showed real potential at times.

They conceded fewer goals (three) than any of the other seven teams in the division, which was quite a feat against such high-quality opposition.

Significantly, they kept their net intact against Monaghan last Saturday too.

Graham's dual role as Cavan and Mullinalaghta manager until the Longford champions lost the All-Ireland club semi-final in mid-February was demanding and with the busy league schedule continuing until the end of March, he had little chance to undertake an overall evaluation.

That became possible in April-early May, the fruits of which were obvious last Saturday.

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