Thomas Galligan is a cool customer. In the days after the Ulster final win over Donegal, a shock result for everyone who wasn’t part of Mickey Graham’s panel, Galligan cut a relaxed figure.
It had been 23 years since Cavan had won an Ulster title, but Galligan’s response to questions from a gaggle of journalists were as laid back as you like. The journalists wanted superlatives, instead they got what was almost nonchalance from a man who pointed out that everyone had written Cavan off.
“We were meant to be a warm up game for Donegal to take on Dublin,” he said, reflecting on the country’s attitude to Cavan’s Ulster final appearance.”
“We were listening how we hadn’t a chance against Down, we hadn’t a chance against Monaghan. People use different ways to motivate themselves. That was my way. I was sick of people putting Cavan down.
“We can’t get the pats on the back but no one can take it away from us.”
Of course Galligan was delighted with the win, but the man who we will all remember for getting a battering in the Ulster final, acted like he knew all along that they were going to win the Ulster title.
The chat in the immediate aftermath was that some folks thought the game should be played somewhere else than Croker.
For Galligan, the suggestion supported an argument that yet again Cavan were underdogs.
“At this stage we were meant to be long beat. So we will play anywhere. They are well used to playing there. But everyone wants to play in Croker. When you are growing up everyone wants to play in Croker. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.”
“I don’t see [a game against Dublin] as daunting, I see it as exciting. We are playing the best team in the country. After you play them you really know where you are at. I don’t think anyone would have thought Cavan would have been in a semi-final.
“There is no pressure on us. We are going out to enjoy it. We won’t fear it.”
The chat about Croker, and moving the game away, is connected to the issue of crowds. There won’t be any big turn outs at headquarters because of restrictions on gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That means Cavan fans won’t get to see their team play Dublin.
“Everyone wants fans to be there. Cavan are passionate. If they were there they would give you an extra step. You can’t belittle the amount of time Cavan give to the team. It’s a blow not having them at the game. But we will still go about our business.”
Galligan’s business is putting on big performances. He had come on as a sub against Down and Monaghan, yet come the clash with Donegal he started. Galligan explained how that came to be.
“I was carrying a knock in the first few games so it was perhaps a bit of game management him not starting me. That was Mickey’s call. I was happy to be able to come in. Everyone on the bench has done that. It is great to have that strength and depth to come in and make a difference.”
When the final whistle blew, their achievement was realised, and Cavan ended a long wait to lift the Anglo Celt. The cool Galligan recalled the feelings.
“Everyone was in shock. We had all visualised what we needed to get over the line. Nobody thought of the final whistle moment, because no one gave us a chance. It was great to win with all the lads you have trained all year with. We have put serious effort in this year over lockdown. We were training away on our own as well. So to say that we have an Ulster medal at the end of it is great. It made it all worthwhile. I don’t think it will sink in for a while.”
For now they will turn their attention to Dublin, and what will probably be another confident peformance from a team who will no doubt be written off again.