McKenna Cup Preview: The only way is up for Cavan

By Niall Gartland

A NEW Year brings renewed expectation, and Cavan fans will be hopeful that they’ll at least fare better than in 2021.

It was a poor year to say the least, evidenced by the fact they’ll be plying their trade in Division Four in these coming months.

But there’s reason for optimism as well – surely the only way is up, and they were handed a relatively ‘kind’ draw in the Ulster Championship as they’re been paired with Antrim in the quarter-finals.

Details have been fairly scare, and training is understood to have been curtailed by close contacts leading into tonight’s McKenna Cup opener against Armagh. However, it is understood that all the old reliables are back for another season – Martin Reilly, Raymond Galligan and Gearoid McKiernan to name the most prominent.

At the other end of the spectrum, manager Mickey Graham (it’s hard to believe he’s already going into his fourth season in charge) has drafted in a number of new faces. Among them are Ryan O’Neill (Kildallan), Cian Madden (Gowna), Jack McKenna, Paul Smith Laragh), goalkeeper Lorcan Hammond (Kill) and Ballinagh duo Evan Finnegan and Thomas Smith.

It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out; just 12 months or so ago, Graham was hailed as one of the top tacticians in the game following their unexpected run to Ulster glory against Donegal.

His motivational qualities are obviously, but time will tell whether he can effectively fix things following some pretty disappointing showings last year.

One of the areas that requires surgery is the forward line. They have some talented attackers for sure, but it seemed like they got the balance wrong last season and it led to some poor returns up front.

They’ll be happy to put up a decent showing in the McKenna Cup as they have two pretty tough tests ahead, firstly against Armagh and then against Tyrone on Tuesday evening. Division Four may come to define their season – if they can achieve promotion and at the very, very least make the semis in Ulster, where they take on the winners of Donegal and Armagh, they can at least say they have steadied the ship.

It’s also worth mentioning the new names in the backroom team. Dermot McCabe has departed, but Graham has enlisted two well known faces to help out.

Ryan McMenamin is involved as coach (and he’s mooted to be appointed manager of his club Dromore so it’ll be interesting to see how that one works out if it comes to pass) while Seanie Johnston has been recruited as a forwards’ coach. They say a change is a rest so it may do no harm.

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