By Niall Gartland
GOWNA have firmly established themselves as the leading team in Cavan football in recent years and now it’s up to them to show that they can duke it out with the big dogs in Ulster football.
They retained their Cavan Senior Championship crown and did it in style with a thumping victory over Kingscourt, running out comprehensive 5-15 to 0-13 victors.
This time last year they came up against Enniskillen Gaels in the first round of Ulster, losing out on penalties, but their joint-manager Fintan Reilly says it wasn’t an especially good performance.
So they’ll be hoping to put their best foot forward when they play host to Naomh Conaill at Kingspan Breffni this Sunday. It’s a big ask against a notoriously dogged side who can call upon the likes of All-Ireland winners Leo McLoone and Anthony Thompson and the younger Thompson brother Ciaran to name but a few.
Reilly, who manages Gowna alongside club native Dermot McCabe, said: “Last year Enniskillen beat us on penalties on a Saturday night and it was a tough one to take.
“It was our first outing in Ulster and we know our performance that evening wasn’t good. Now we’ve Glenties coming to Breffni which won’t be easy, they’ve been in the last seven finals in Donegal and have won four of them. They hit 1-16 in the final which is a very good score in Donegal, they took out Kilcar in the quarter-final, St Eunan’s in the semi-final, so they’ve had a hard route to Ulster and are there on merit.
“They were beaten on penalties last year as well so they’ll be looking to go one step further. It’s a massive ask for us but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”
While it wasn’t a major surprise that Gowna emerged triumphant in Cavan, the manner of their semi-final and final victories over Crosserlough and Kingscourt Stars certainly raised a few eyebrows. They swatted aside Crosserlough with relative ease and banged in five goals against Kingscourt, so there’s no disputing their position as the leading force in Cavan.
Asked if the camp itself was surprised by how comprehensive those victories were, Reilly said: “We were surprised in one sense but we knew those performances were in us. We didn’t expect the final to pan out the way it was, but we knew those performances were in us. We got the goals early that killed off Kingscourt. We took most of our opportunities but left a couple behind us as well. We got the win and that’s the main thing.”
Gowna have an illustrious history but they had a barren spell when they went two full decades without winning a county title between 2002 and 2022. But they do have that tradition and it’s not something to be underestimated.
“With a lot of our players, their fathers won titles with Gowna in previous decades, so there’s a continuation of what’s going on. It bodes well for the club, Gowna’s not a big parish. It really stands to the club that all these boys are mad keen on sticking around and representing the club.”