Cavan manager, Mickey Graham.
Cavan manager, Mickey Graham. 

Cavan manager Graham pleased with silverware

By Paul Fitzpatrick

Seventy years had passed since Cavan picked up a national senior title in Croke Park. St Patrick’s College won the Hogan Cup at HQ in 1972 but in terms of actual inter-county teams, it has been a long barren spell for the Breffni men since Mick Higgins accepted the Sam Maguire in 1952.

Cavan senior, U21, minor and club sides had played 11 games at Croker since 1997, winning just once, a 2013 qualifier against London, so the victory over Tipperary in the Division 4 league final was most welcome. The experience of playing on the big stage stood to Cavan, manager Mickey Graham felt, as they secured an overdue title.

“You could feel today that the boys weren’t in awe when they came up here. Obviously a lot of them were here in 2020 when we came up against Dublin so it wasn’t really new to them, they were comfortable coming up here. Winning games in Croke Park is always nice and when you come away with a bit of silverware it’s even better,” Graham said.

“We got promotion last week and that was our main objective but to come away with a bit of silverware is always nice and it’s something to show for a long league campaign.”

Tipperary battled to the end and could have snatched it in a game where the sides were level nine times.

“It was difficult at times [to find space]. I thought we created a couple of chances in the first half but we were a bit guilty of giving the ball away cheaply and maybe forcing it at times. But as the game went on, things started to open up a wee bit.

“I thought our lads upped their work ethic midway through the second half, we got a couple of vital turnovers in the middle third which resulted in scores when they couldn’t get enough bodies back to defend.

“I thought the second half, when they went two points up it looked like it was slipping away but the boys kept at it, they definitely upped their work-rate and kept plugging away. You couldn’t fault the effort and endeavour from them.

“We could have lost it when the ball came off the crossbar. When we played Tipperary in the league earlier, we didn’t take those chances and today we took them.”

Tipperary football team manager, David Power. 
Tipperary football team manager, David Power. 

Cavan’s second goal saw Jason McLoughlin bravely intercept and Gearoid McKiernan and Thomas Galligan thunder forward before Man of the Match Paddy Lynch rattled the net. It was an excellent move, agreed the manager.

“When you saw the boys breaking up the field, you were thinking it was the right men in the right places and the right man was there to finish it at the end as well. In fairness, it was created from the hard work in the middle of the field and then we had the energy and enthusiasm to get up the field and finish it off, which was great.

“Competition for places is going to heat up, we have a couple of lads returning from injury next week but that’s what you want, you want lads driving each other on. Some lads didn’t get on the field today, they’ll be disappointed but hopefully they’ll respond well to it.

“It’s Division 4, you take it for what it is, we’ll park it up now and we’ll look forward to the championship in three weeks. The main objective was to get out of the division, we did that and we wanted then to come up here and put in a performance.

“Lots of questions have been asked of the boys mentally during this league campaign, we were in a few sticky situations but in fairness you have to give them credit, they found a way to get out of them and here we are now at the end of it all with something to show for it.”

Tipperary manager David Power, meanwhile, rued a couple of mistakes at key stages.

“It is very disappointing because I thought on the balance of play we maybe were the better team in the second half. Unfortunately we had three bad turnovers in the second half and to be fair to Cavan, they really killed us from those and that second goal was probably the crucial score.

“But we came back again and we were only inches away from getting that goal. But overall, from where we were at down in Dungarvan, we’ve come a long, long way,” he said, referencing a draw with Waterford in the first round, which was followed by a heavy home defeat to Leitrim.

“There are 24 other teams this weekend playing challenge matches, we’re playing a very competitive game in Croke Park and you can’t beat that, I think that will bring us on over the next four weeks.”