By Michael McMullan
CAVAN’S promotion charge has been picking up momentum but manager Mickey Graham stresses his side are living in the moment.
Speaking to Gaelic Life ahead of this weekend’s all-Ulster clash with Down, Graham made the comment how quickly football can change.
One victory can turn a season previously “going poorly” and an impressive run has the potential to “take a nosedive” after one defeat.
While Graham didn’t reference it, last year’s Tailteann Cup final was the perfect example with Kieran Martin’s run and thumping goal leaving Cavan both shell-shocked and empty-handed at Croke Park.
Alongside Derry and Dublin, who meet on Saturday, Cavan hold the other 100 per cent record from four league outings.
It may be a cliché, but Cavan have not looked any further than the next 70 minutes coming around the corner with new players coming into the team and a constant aim for improvement week on week.
“That’s why the league is hugely important, it’s all about getting ready for the championship,” said Graham.
The Down game, well it’s no bigger than the rest in Graham’s book and he knows what to expect as he looks forward to the first of three Ulster derbies over the next month.
“Down have been in very good form and they had a good McKenna Cup campaign,” said the Breffni boss.
“They had a bit of a blip against Fermanagh but they bounced back with a great result against Westmeath, so we know ourselves how good Down are and the dangers they pose.
“We think it is going to be excellent preparation going into the Ulster Championship and it’s great that we have Down, Antrim and Fermanagh coming up. There is nothing like playing Ulster teams for getting ready for the Ulster Championship, so we’ll know exactly where we are after those three games.”
One of the stars of Cavan’s season has been Dara McVeety who has lined out in all seven games his season at centre-back, with Ciaran ‘Holla’ Brady and newcomer Tiarnan Madden both ever-present beside him.
“Dara is a quality player and has been out of the country for a couple of years,” Graham said. “He looks like was never away. He played with the club last year and has got himself into really good shape. It is great to have somebody of his experience back in the squad.”
Madden and Niall Carolan were both part of the u-20 team who ran All-Ireland champions Tyrone very close in the Ulster final last season.
“It’s about getting them into the shape required to play at senior level and they’ve adapted very well to that,” Graham said of an group that also includes Cian Reilly, Brian O’Rourke, Cathal Leddy and Caoimhin McGovern.
Brandon Boylan has his 1-8 in his breakthrough season with another newcomer – Oisin Brady – the top scorer with 1-25 to his name despite being out of action with an ankle injury picked up against Longford.
Graham expects Brady and last year’s top scorer Gearóid McKiernan to both be back in the coming weeks with the latter not having kicked a ball in Breffni blue since last season’s Tailteann Cup final.
“We have another couple of lads who are on the fringes that are taking a bit more time to get to where they need to, but they are on the right track and won’t be long before they are in the mix as well,” said Graham, who hinted after last year’s Ulster exit to Donegal that he would delve into Damien Donohoe’s u-20 squad to get them blooded into the senior grade.
“For the league campaign we were down a few of our experienced players through injury. It was an opportunity to give other lads game time and those lads took that opportunity.
“We have a couple of lads are returning back week on week from injury and that has strengthened the panel and you’d be hoping that competition will keep everybody on their toes and make the team stronger going forward.”