Gaels glad to be back at St Paul’s

By Michael McMullan

LIKE Tuesday’s semi-final opponents Mayobridge, Cavan Gaels are back in St Paul’s after a lengthy spell.

The Gaels, winners of the Jimmy McConville Cup in 1999 before losing the final to Pearse Óg 12 months later, are Breffni champions for the first time since 2010.

After taking their eye off the ball at underage, they are back in the “business end” of most competitions and are playing Division One football on a regular basis.

They were u-15 champions in Cavan last season after losing the semi-final replay the previous year and losing the semi-final after extra-time in 2021.

“We were dominating the minor championship in Cavan for a period of 10 years from 1999. We competed in 11 minor championship finals in a row,” said Ed O’Hanlon, who forms a management team with DJ Gaffney, Chris Quinn and Stephen Maguire.

“We significantly fell back with our underage teams for quite a bit of time.”

The Gaels lost a stalwart in 2015 when JJ Reilly passed away. The former Breffni player had a 20-year club career before ploughing many years into underage development and had a link with their minor teams at St Paul’s.

“Out of the 1999 and 2000 (minor) teams we ended up dominating senior in Cavan from the early 2000s,” O’Hanlon added.

“We competed in 10 senior finals in a row and a lot of the structures that were put in place initially, JJ would’ve been responsible for that. He coached from u-7 up and put the whole underage structures in place.

“It took us a few years to regroup and coordinate our underage structure,” said O’Hanlon, who played under Reilly.

Three of the management team played in St Paul’s on a good few occasions and had been coached by JJ at some stage.

“In more recent years, across the age groups, we are very competitive in Division One again and are back to where we would like to me.”

Since their win over Mullahoran in the Cavan minor final, the Gaels had the guts of eight weeks of inactivity.

With so many of their players lining out at MacRory or Rannafast Cup level with St Patrick’s, Cavan, the Gaels’ training programme was trimmed back to a smaller squad.

They put the show back on the road 10 days before their win over Irvinestown.

“Training was very difficult and we were very conscious not to overtrain them,” O’Hanlon explained of their balancing act.

The Gaels have the novelty of playing on St Stephen’s Day, with Four Masters awaiting the winners in the New Year’s Day decider. It’s where every minor footballer in Ulster wants to be.

“The reality of the matter, if they (Mayobridge) are in the semi-final they will be very strong,” O’Hanlon said of their semi-final opponents.

“I thought they had a tough task of going up to play the tournament hosts (St Paul’s) and after taking their scalp on their home patch, I wouldn’t be underestimating them in any way. We will have to be at our very best to compete with them.”


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