Cavan SFC – Castlerahan ready to answer their critics

Cavan Senior Football Championship

Ramor United v Castlerahan

Sunday, Kingspan Breffni Park, 3.45pm

STEPHEN Cooney disputes the perception that Castlerahan are an ageing team – and says that they’ll stop at nothing in their quest to win as many trophies as possible.

It’s taken the Ballyjamesduff men a while to get going, but now they stand on the precipice of a league and championship double-double.

They’re were in danger of being seen as the perennial losers of Cavan football, losing four senior championship finals in seven years, but now they’re the favourites to come up trumps in Sunday’s showdown against Ramor.

“We thought with the amount of work and effort put in in the last few years that we feel there’s a lot more championships than just one. Maybe we felt that we deserved more than one and the drive is still there.

“We won the league again this year, so it’s going well and the drive is definitely still there – we’ve a couple of new, young lads pushing on and we’ve bigger numbers now than last year and it’s brought a lot into the panel.”

Expanding on the theme, the Castlerahan corner-back said: “I know people have said about us that Castlerahan are finished, they’re an ageing team but we sat together at the start of the year and we thought we’re coming into our prime now.

“If you look at the team-sheet, the majority of our team, bar the likes of maybe Cian Mackey, Ronan Flanagan, Brian Ennis, the majority of our team are 27, 28, 29, so I’d consider that we’re in our absolute prime now and that’s why we want to take advantage of it. We want to win as much as possible in this period because we’re not all going to last forever.”

Castlerahan qualified for their fifth senior championship final in-a-row with an impressive 1-11 to 0-9 victory over Cavan Gaels. Key men like Ronan Flanagan and Cian Mackey are on the ‘wrong’ side of 30, but they’ve lost none of their ability and will be determined to make amends for their 2016 final defeat to Ramor.

Cooney said: “It’s a local derby and they’re always tight games. Ramor always want to beat us and we always want to beat them.

“I know in 2016 they got the upper hand on us and since then we had a bit of success in the championship.

“We beat them in the league final this year but that was a wet day in Crosskeys and league football is different.

“Come the business-end of the championship there are no easy games. This is a brilliant Ramor team and Crosserlough were tipped as the team to beat, and they beat them twice in the championship.

“We know that’s the task ahead of us and we know we’re going to have to bring our A game and if not, they’re going to take advantage of that so we know we’re going to have to be up to it.”

Castlerahan didn’t half make life difficult for themselves as they finally reached the promised land by defeating Crosserlough in last year’s decider.

They trailed by six points with 15 points to go but produced something out of the ordinary to prevail by a single point. Cooney says they’re a now a more ‘relaxed’ team as a result.

“To be honest, after the final whistle and for a few days after, it was more a feeling of relief. It didn’t really set in until a week or two after, when things settled back down, but I think it was more of a relief. That’s maybe helped us this year in that it seems to be a bit more relaxed between the team, now that we’ve finally gotten that pressure off us.

“We were in three and lost them but finally got over the line in the fourth one but if we were going into a fifth final, having lost four, the pressure would be sky-high. I think it has released a bit of pressure off us and we seem to be a bit more relaxed and a little bit more experienced in seeing out games and we don’t seem to panic and I think that’s been reflected in the results.”

Cooney, one of Castlerahan’s relatively unheralded players, also says that those final 15 minutes were a total blur.

“It all went by in a flash, especially that second half. I remember the goal went in and then they got another point and we were six points down and I thought ‘ah, here, not again’.

“We went back up and got the penalty but I can’t really remember much of it – it just flew by and it’s hard to remember.

“But we had experience and I think we showed it that day because we could’ve easily have put the heads down and thought ‘here we go again’ and that’s testament to the lads.”

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