By Niall Gartland
CROSSERLOUGH are the form team heading into this year’s Cavan Senior Club Championship but there’s five or six teams that’ll quietly fancy their chances of getting their hands on the Oliver Plunkett Cup.
2020 champions Crosserlough failed to make the final in the last two years but they had a stellar league campaign and captured the Division One title with victory over Kingscourt Stars last weekend.
It was a comfortable win with Crosserlough running out 2-16 to 3-6 victors on the scoreboard. They’re the only side that went unbeaten through the league and their main men are all going well – Peter and James Smith and Paddy Lynch all scored heavily against Kingscourt while Conor Rehill and Dara McVeety also stood out. One point of concern was that they showed some defensive frailties, coughing up four goal chances, but they’re still in a rich vein of form and should be well in contention for ultimate honours.
While Gowna didn’t have a spectacular league campaign, they’re not defending champions for nothing. Dermot McCabe and Fintan Reilly remain in charge but they’ve some key men out with injury at present. Ryan McGahern hasn’t played all year due to a knee injury, Aaron Brady did his ACL in June so he’s out for the season while Fionnan Brady is playing for Cavan in New York but should be back on home soil very soon. They still managed to reach the league semi-final, losing by only two points to Crosserlough, and they take on Lacken in the first round of the group stages on Thursday week – a side they know very well as they’ve amalgamated at u-17 and u-20 level.
If you like a flutter, Kingscourt Stars may be worth a few quid at 10/1. While they fell short in the league final, Jordan Morris from Meath has been a great addition and stalwart Joe Dillon is coming back to fitness. They have some really formidable players like Barry Reilly and Padraig Faulkner so you can’t write them off.
Ramor wil be hoping to go all the way to championship glory for the second time in three years. James Brady, son of the manager John, is in Australia while Sean McEvoy is on a soccer scholarship in America. Both of them carried the scoring threat in recent years so it’s difficult to see how Ramor can compensate in their absence. They have a tough test against Crosserlough in the opening group stage and if they can come through that one, they’ll really fancy their chances of making the knockouts at the very least.
Cavan Gaels last won the championship in 2017 under Jason O’Reilly, who returned as manager last year. They finished a reasonably impressive fifth in the league but the talk is that Cavan stalwart Gearóid McKieran, who transferred into the club a few years back, won’t be lining out for them this season and his absence is sure to be felt. They do have a strong manager – O’Reilly is one of three contenders to replace Mickey Graham as inter-county boss – and defensively they’ve been pretty sound but the championship title may be beyond them.
You then have seven other teams to complete the set. Mullahoran have made steady progress in recent years while Castlerahan are back in the top flight after a short stay in the intermediate ranks. It’d be remiss not to mention Killygarry, who had a memorable campaign last year, reaching the final where they fell short by seven points to Gowna. They didn’t have a good league campaign, and nor did Lacken, so it’s hard to see them making such a positive impression this time around. The other teams that haven’t been mentioned are Ballinagh, Lavey and Laragh, all of whom are capable of springing an upset on their day, but are unlikely to make it to the business end of the competition.
Cavan teams generally don’t fare well in the Ulster arena but their club championships are competitive and have a tendency to produce a different winner from year to year. Crosserlough are the form team but if the likes of Gowna or Kingscourt pick up a head of steam, it’s by no means a given they’ll be the last team standing when all is said and done.