By Niall Gartland
GIVEN his youthful visage and his relatively late admission into the inter-county scene, it’s hard to believe Cavan footballer Oisin Kieran is already 30 years of age.
Kieran grew up playing for St Brigid’s in Meath, but his parents are dyed in the wool Cavan people and it wasn’t long after moving to Castlerahan before he was representing the Breffni County at senior level.
It’s been an eventful period on and off the field – he missed almost two full years of action after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, and he was forced to watch from the wings as Castlerahan won their first ever senior championship title in 2018.
But Kiernan recovered to feature in Castlerahan’s successful defence of their title in 2019, and he also played a key role in Cavan’s long-awaited Ulster Championship triumph in 2020, scoring two crucial points against Donegal.
By his very nature, however, Kiernan, a pig farmer by profession, says he prefers to focus on the here and now.
“As a player you don’t look back at these things too much. Maybe when I’m finished playing I might say we did this and did that, but for me it’s just about moving forward. I think it’s just my nature, I prefer to focus on my short-term goals. Obviously we won the Ulster title in 2020 and that was great, but it’s not something I dwell on.”
Cavan get their season underway this Sunday with a trip to Portglenone to take on Antrim (a good two-hour journey from their Kingspan Breffni base). It’s been 23 years since Cavan won the last of their 11 McKenna Cups, but Kieran says he enjoys the pre-season competition. Nothing beats playing matches, after all.
“I’ve always enjoyed the McKenna Cup and I think the rest of the team do as well. You get a few competitive matches and that’s what it’s all about, so it’s a good way to get the season going again. It’s another competition so we want to win it. The weather can play havoc with this time of year but it’s nice to get going again.
“I’m 30 now and there’s a perception that’s ‘old’ by inter-county standards but I still feel fresh, the young lads in the panel are flying as well, there’s been some great additions from last year’s u-20 team.”
Indeed, Kiernan also disputes the widely held perception that manager Mickey Graham (right) doesn’t care about the league. Cavan suffered back-to-back relegations under his watch before springing back with promotion from Division Four last year, but he said their run of bad form had nothing to do with attitude.
“I think that’s all outside talk to be honest, any game we play, we try to win, so I wouldn’t pay attention to that sort of talk. I think that’s just people making assumptions.”
Their 2021 season climaxed with a disappointing defeat to Westmeath in the inaugural Tailteann Cup final. Manager Mickey Graham openly pondered his future in a post-match interview, but he and the rest of the camp are ready to go again. Kiernan is fairly philosophical about their Croke Park defeat to the Leinster outfit.
“We played Donegal in Ulster and gave them a good game but they edged us out in the second-half. It was the Tailteann Cup or nothing and we enjoyed the run, it’s just a pity we didn’t get over the line in the end. That’s the way it goes and we’re ready to go again.
“We enjoyed the competition, we took it seriously as we do every competition and tried to win every game. We obviously got to the final and didn’t get over the line, but it was a good learning experience for us.”
Kiernan is also enjoying learning from former Tyrone defender Ryan McMenamin, who is involved in a coaching capacity behind the scenes.
“He’s been a brilliant addition-coaching wise, and he’s worked with me on improving different aspects of my game. The lads love him, he’s a good craic, a great fella to have about the place.”
He’s also glad that the most experienced members of the Cavan panel, including Martin Reilly and Gearóid McKiernan are back for another crack at it. They’ve had a hugely positive impact on his playing career.
“There’s massive leaders both club and county, it’s great playing alongside them and you try to keep learning from them and moving forward.”
On the club front, Castlerahan bounced back after being dumped out of the senior championship in 2021, a surprising turn of events that had the potential to be a massive setback. However, they steadied the ship and won the 2022 Intermediate Championship.
“The number one target was to get straight back up to the Senior Championship and that’s what we did. We won the Intermediate title and our first game in Ulster. We lost to Corduff in the semi-final, we knew it was going to be tough and they edged us out in the end. They’re a tight, physical team.”