Cavan champions Castlerahan back after five-week lay-off

By Niall Gartland

CAVAN teams traditionally haven’t fared well in the provincial club championships, but their Intermediate representatives Castlerahan will take heart from Denn’s successful Ulster Junior Championship campaign last year.

Castlerahan earned themselves a crack at the Ulster Senior Championship in 2018 and 2019 – albeit with little success – but they’ve enough top players in their ranks to suggest they can make their mark in the Intermediate tournament.

Their manager Brian Donohoe has already achieved their primary objective this year of promotion back to the senior ranks in Cavan, following last month’s Intermediate final win over Ballyhaise, and he’s in optimistic enough form ahead of their provincial opener against Devenish this Saturday.

Casting his mind back to Denn’s success last year, Donohoe said: “Denn had a great run, winning the Ulster Junior Championship. The structures have changed in Cavan, there’s 12 senior teams now which is a reduction, and in theory that should mean a strong intermediate team coming out of the county.

“We’re nowhere like the aberration in Kerry football, where teams are far too strong below the senior tier, but that’s an argument for another day.”

Opponents Devenish won their first championship title in decades when they overcame Tempo a fortnight ago. They’re not lacking in experience, however, and many of their players featured in a senior championship final defeat to Derrygonnelly back in 2017. It makes for an encounter that is particularly difficult to call.

“They’re a long-established, strong team in Fermanagh, so we’re under no illusions it’s going to be a tough battle. They have home advantage (the game takes place in Ederney), and they’re full of pace with a nice blend of youth and experience. They have well-known players like Barry Mulrone and a good goalkeeper in Thomas Tracey, and they also did well to bounce back after losing last year’s final in Fermanagh. That shows they’re a persistent side so it’ll be a tough game for us.”

Whatever happens, Castlerahan will be mightily relieved that their stint at intermediate in Cavan was a short one. Eyebrows were raised across the province, let alone Cavan, when they were relegated last season but they’ve steadied the ship and held firm against a stellar Ballyhaise side in the Intermediate final.

“We’re delighted, the final was played in tough conditions but I think we controlled the game pretty well. The goal was a big score for us, it kept us ahead. Getting back to senior was the target from the start of the year so it’s job done and we’re looking forward to the new adventure.”

Donohoe is also mindful that they’ve had a five-week lay-off before their Ulster opener, but hopes it won’t disadvantage them.

“There’s pros and cons to the break, in the first week we’d a few parties to attend to, but by the weekend we were drifting back to getting a bit of work done. Thank God we’re on the home straight now and we’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

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