By Niall Gartland
BY a twist of fate Gowna’s last Ulster Championship match, 20 years ago this week, was against their upcoming opponents Enniskillen Gaels.
The Fermanagh team edged Gowna in a semi-final contest back in November 11, 2002 before losing to Errigal Ciaran in the final on a wet and miserable day in Clones.
Both sides fell down the pecking order over the course of the last few decades, but they’re back in business and will lock swords in an Ulster Championship quarter-final clash this weekend.
Gowna’s Ryan McGahern captained the Cavan side to their first senior championship title in two decades ago with their recent win over Killygarry. He’s new to the provincial stage but Gowna do have a few survivors from their 2002 vintage – namely Mark McKeever, Ronan Bannon, Gerald Pierson and their joint-manager Dermot McCabe.
McGahern commented: “I’ve never played in Ulster before, only a handful of the lads have, but we’ve got over the championship win – it took a while but we’ve had a decent break so we’re looking forward to the Enniskillen game.
“In fairness to the management, they gave us a bit of time off after we won Cavan, there was no word of training directly after the final. Everyone was nearly happy to be back at training again a couple of days later. We’re definitely taking it seriously, and it’s like anything else, you want to win no matter what competition you’re in.”
No Cavan team has ever won the Ulster Senior Club Football title, though Cavan Gaels, Kingscourt and Bailieborough have reached the final at some stage or other. Last year’s representatives Ramor were torn asunder by Kilcoo, but Gowna’s clash against Enniskillen, coming off the back of their first Fermanagh SFC win in 16 years, is rather more difficult to predict.
“I don’t know whether it’s a case that Cavan teams haven’t been good enough, or just haven’t taken it too seriously, but we don’t seem to progress too far in the competition. We’ll hopefully buck that trend and get a couple of wins, we’ll see how it goes.
“Last year Ramor were drawn against a team that turned out to be the best in Ireland, so it was a tough one for them to start off with. People are saying there won’t be much between ourselves and Enniskillen Gaels, so it’s a good opportunity for us to get a win under our belts. Maybe we’d be a bit more nervous coming up against a Glen or Kilcoo and I’m sure Enniskillen Gaels would think the same.”
While it’s new territory for Gowna, they’ve had a good spell of success at underage level in recent years and they’ve appeared in the last two Cavan finals at senior level, so they shouldn’t be over-awed by the occasion.
“They say you have to win one to lose one, it sounds like a stupid thing to say but I’m starting to think it must be true. Hopefully that bit of nervousness won’t be a factor, we’ll be going in with the shackles off as nobody really expects us to go very far.”