Mickey Graham looking forward to Leitrim challenge
By John Harrington
Former Cavan manager, Mickey Graham, is excited about the new challenge of joining Andy Moran’s Leitrim management team in a coaching capacity.
Graham stepped down as Cavan manager this year after a five-season spell that included an Ulster SFC triumph in 2020, so it was something of a surprise when he was announced yesterday as Moran’s new assistant-manager.
He’s part of a reshuffled backroom team that also includes a new lead strength and conditioning coach in Mayo native Darragh Finn.
Graham is currently managing the Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins team that will contest Sunday’s Connacht Gold Leitrim SFC semi-final against reigning champions St. Mary’s Kiltoghert, so he already has a good knowledge of Leitrim football.
“It's a new challenge and I'm really looking forward to it,” Graham told GAA.ie “I'd know quit bit about Leitrim and I'm really looking forward to getting to work at it and working with Andy and the rest of the backroom team.
“Andy and myself would be talking over the last number of years on various things so we'd know each other quite well.”
Leitrim had a disappointing 2023 season. They were competitive in Division 4 of the Allianz League but missed out on promotion, were knocked out of the Connacht SFC by New York, and lost their three Tailteann Cup matches
Graham is convinced though that there’s a lot of potential in the team and is optimistic about what they might achieve in 2024.
“There's a lot of talent in Leitrim,” he says. “Like any county, it's about getting your best players playing and getting them on the field.
“They were unlucky last year with a few injuries and things like that, but they were always competitive. A lot of work has gone in the last couple of years and there's a good foundation in place from talking to Andy.
“There's a lot of good things in place at the moment and it's probably just about trying to build on that and keep moving the thing forward. I know there's great plans in place for not just the year ahead but for future years as well.”
After five years of managing Cavan, Graham is looking forward to a new role that will allow him to focus more on coaching players.
“Yeah, definitely,” he says. “Inter-county management is a full-time job. An awful lot of stuff goes on behind the scenes that you don't see so from that point of view it's nice to not have the headaches of organising and getting things done behind the scenes and dealing with media and stuff like that.
“It'll be nice just to go in and do a bit of coaching and try to bring a bit of knowledge and hopefully the players will learn something off me even if it's one or two nuggets of information.”
Graham’s appointment will add a little extra intrigue to this weekend’s Connacht Gold Leitrim SFC semi-finals.
His Ballinamore team are underdogs against reigning champions St Mary’s, but bring a lot of momentum into the game after their nine-point quarter-final win over Glencar Manorhamilton last weekend.
“It's going to be a tough ask, they're the team to beat,” says Graham. “Them, Mohill, and Fenagh would be regarded as the top three in the county at present. It's a big challenge but it's one the lads are looking forward to.”