Cavan footballer Cian Mackey pictured at a media event ahead of Sunday's Allianz League Division One clash against Galway.
Cavan footballer Cian Mackey pictured at a media event ahead of Sunday's Allianz League Division One clash against Galway.

Cian Mackey is ready for action again

By Cian O'Connell

Considering Cavan’s deep tradition expectation is usually attached, and on the eve of a new Allianz Football League campaign Cian Mackey feels the current optimism isn’t misplaced.

The emergence of Mickey Graham, who has steered Mullinalaghta St Columba’s to three Longford crowns and one AIB Leinster Club title, adds another sub plot to Sunday’s Division One encounter against Galway at Pearse Stadium.

Mackey, the popular Cavan attacker operating on the inter-county beat since 2005, is delighted to wearing the royal blue and white shirt once more.

Graham has sampled success and silverware with Mullinalaghta and Mackey is excited about his appointment as Cavan manager. “When I was starting Mickey was finishing with Cavan, my first game I played corner forward alongside Mickey,” Mackey recalls.

“You would know even from playing with him that he was very intelligent. He knows how the game works and that is a great benefit to know that a manager knows, he is an intelligent boy.

“When it comes to game plans and stuff like that you can see with Mullinalaghta and the resources he has are limited, but he makes the best of what he has.

“They have won three Longfords in a row and now a Leinster title. It shows that he definitely has a pedigree, that he will be one for the future. Hopefully we can keep a hold of him for a good few years.”

Four Ulster Under 21 Championships on the spin were gleaned by Cavan between 2011 and 2014 highlighting what can be achieved. There is no shortage of ability in Cavan according to Mackey, who is encouraged that the vast majority of players are committing to the cause again.

Conor Madden and Cian Mackey after Cavan secured promotion to Division One of the Allianz Football League last year.
Conor Madden and Cian Mackey after Cavan secured promotion to Division One of the Allianz Football League last year.

“Yeah there is loads of talent, without a doubt, without question,” Mackey admits. “It is just travelling and stuff like that has caused a lot of problems for Cavan.

“Lads want to get away and you can't argue with that. We have probably lost a lot of players from wanting to get away and work. At the moment you could say 90 or 95 per cent of the players are in the squad now.

“It definitely wasn't always the case. For a couple of years you had a lot of lads away. We have a lot of new faces in this year, but they are lads who have won at Under 21 and minor. So they know how to win. Them boys coming back will be a great boost to the team and to the squad. Hopefully too over the years to come.”

Mackey didn’t hesitate when afforded the opportunity to return to Cavan duty. “If you didn't have it you wouldn't know what to do with yourself at times,” Mackey laughs.

“It is always good to get back to your club and stuff like that, but at this time of the year with lads playing League and McKenna Cup games you would miss it. That is the key factor.

“You'll be long enough not able to play football so why not play it while you are still just about able. Between 2005 and now we had a lot of bad days, but the few good days keeps you thinking.”

The prospect of delivering in Division One or in the Championship when a campaign or an era is being defined is what excites Mackey. “Probably in the back of your mind you nearly have a fear of missing out,” Mackey acknowledges. “There are good footballers in Cavan so a time will come when a team will do something.

“While you are still able to play you should try to help that team as best you can. There will be long enough when you are 36 or 37, you will be finished and just watching on. You might as well play while you can because there will be enough time to sit on the couch.”

Cian Mackey remains an influential figure for Cavan.
Cian Mackey remains an influential figure for Cavan.

In Cavan football talk dominates the agenda and Mackey accepts that there is a buzz with Graham’s appointment and the fact that the schedule drips with high profile matches. “The Cavan support have always been brilliant, they are staunch football people, it is just football mad,” Mackey states.

“We probably have given them very few occasions to actually get behind us and follow us. With Mickey at the helm you know he will have a plan in place for us to get more of them days hopefully. That will be starting from Sunday and hopefully into the middle of the summer.”

At various stages in the past decade Cavan have threatened to deliver without ever truly realising their full potential. Is there any particular reason for that? “It is all about getting a plan and the team has to stick to that plan,” Mackey replies.

“Maybe under Terry (Hyland) in 2013 we had a plan, it got us to an All Ireland Quarter-Final, but the difference between a team that continues to play well is that the plan evolves.

“Our plan mightn't have evolved then. Now it is a matter for Mickey, Martin Corey, and Dermot McCabe making a plan for this team and for the team not to just hit for one year, for it to hit for a few years the plan has to evolve. You can't just continue to do the same thing.

“We will just see what the boys have for us for the upcoming year. Hopefully we can continue to evolve and stay at the top with the Galways and Monaghans.

“Them teams are coming through, they are starting to stay up there. We have to look at teams like that. We would see ourselves as teams like the Galways and Monaghans, we have to get a plan, stick to it and evolve with the rest of the game.”

It will be interesting to monitor Cavan under Graham’s stewardship with the dashing Mackey primed to produce on the grand stage.