BY KIERAN LYNCH
CAVAN face Leitrim this Saturday with the prospect of obtaining a place in the Lory Meagher final at stake, if they can get the win.
Often seen as one of hurling’s lower lights, Cavan have enjoyed a very promising season in 2023, as they claimed the National Hurling League Division 3B title and now are one game away from destiny in the championship.
However, when asked as to whether they would have taken their current position at the start of the championship campaign, manager Ollie Bellew gave an insight into the mindset of his team and where they want to go.
“After the league campaign, no I wouldn’t,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have wanted it to be coming down to the last day and us needing a win, because at times throughout this season we have been outstanding.
“At the beginning of the year, yes we would have taken it. But we now have standards and expectations, which probably traditionally has never happened with Cavan.
“In the past Cavan have been looking for any scraps they can get, but this team travel in expectation.
“We really let ourselves down at the weekend, we were really disappointed to be coming away from Longford with only a draw. But that in itself speaks volumes about Cavan hurling, and where this team is now.”
With a renewed sense of ambition within the county, and the opportunity to possibly win more silverware, Cavan are hungry for success, and Bellew says that his team are chasing ‘excellence.
“The National League title was only the county’s second ever national title,” he said.
“This is our shot at winning a first ever championship for Cavan hurling, which is unthinkable whenever you consider how long the history of hurling is.
The Cavan boss continued: “We know that we’re there or thereabouts. It’s not even the pursuit of glory that is driving everybody on, it’s the pursuit of excellence, because we’re training really hard and we’re playing to a good standard.
“Tomas Mannion has us set up absolutely first class tactically, so we’re confident in ourselves and confident in each other, and we’re going out to try and recreate what happens in training every Tuesday and Thursday night.
“We’re trying to bring that into a matchday scenario and see a performance worthy of the team that we are now.”
Cavan will have home advantage this weekend, when they take on Leitrim in a repeat of the league final – which the Breffni County edged 0-17 to 0-16 – and Bellew is expecting another tight game.
“They’ll be out seeking retribution for that league final defeat,” he said.
“They’re a really proud hurling team and they gave us everything in that game.
“They’re a great side, with loads of talent throughout and they’re physically very strong, so we never have it easy against them.
“I think this game will go to the wire. It’s going to be a tight one, and we’re going to have to produce our absolute best, to get anything out of it,” Bellew concluded.