ONE of the reasons I like Mickey Graham is that even when Cavan have taken a chinning, and there have been a few examples, he has always come out and spoken honestly and at depth with waiting journalists. After their National League loss to Armagh this season (yes, it was this season), he was quite emotional but he gave everyone his time. Some managers, understandably, will not speak to the press after a bad loss; others will come out and despite the hurt, will give a few words to questions that invariably revolve around the phrase ‘what went wrong?’ Graham never tried to rush away and faced up to any issues. Fitting then, that it was back at the Athletic Grounds were the questions turned to ‘what went right?’
I MAY be an Armagh man but I was rooting for the Down hurlers and Ronan Sheehan at the weekend. They have been excellent this year, winning their division and then shocking Offaly in the Christy Ring Cup semi-final. That’s why their final loss to Kildare on Sunday was so frustrating. They’d achieved so much but the season ended on a sour note. Sheehan is a straight-shooter and he won’t sugar-coat the fact that they didn’t finish the job, although they still move up to Joe McDonagh level. Still, when the dust settles, there are so many positives to take from 2020 for Down. PS, laying a wreath for the Bloody Sunday victims moments after a crushing defeat was a nice touch.
I’M basically Gaelic Life’s designated Cavan correspondent, so I was particularly pleased that they won the Ulster final on Sunday. Mickey Graham comes across as a really sound fella every time I speak to him, and the players all seem like decent skins as well. In an interview with Terry Hyland elsewhere in the paper, he attributes a lot of their success to Cavan’s underage success back in the early part of the last decade. However, I think that does Graham a slight disservice as he’s proven himself to be such a shrewd manager, and I imagine he’s the type of fella you’d love to play for. Good luck to them against Dublin.
I’M not quite sure what to make of Mickey Harte’s decision to take the Louth footballers. It’ll be some change in scenery for him anyway. It seemed like he could wile away his retirement years on the BBC or Sky, but he obviously has the energy levels and determination to go again. Funnily enough, one of my colleagues suggested he might go to Louth a couple of weeks back, and I suppose it makes sense in that they aren’t an immediate rival of Tyrone’s. He should be able to leave an imprint anyway – I imagine they’ll achieve promotion under their way, and maybe they’d show a bit more steel than some Leinster sides if they come up against Dublin in the championship.
ON a few occasions during last weekend’s Ulster final the commentators made mention of what an achievement it was for Cavan and Donegal to play so well after having played steady for the past seven weeks. They must have been tired, yet played a brilliant game. The way I see it, these guys were as fresh as my dance moves. In any other season, an inter-county footballer would have been training four to five times a week from December through to September. If anything, we get a truer sense of how good a team is if they play in a short, sharp season. Long may it continue, or should that be ‘short, may it continue’?
MANY will have noted that the Ulster Championship was won thanks to a long punt into the square. Gearoid McKiernan launched the ball into the area, and Conor Madden snatched the punched save from Shaun Patton and hit the net. My first thought was that here was retribution for Gearoid McKiernan for the Donegal defeat of Cavan in the 2010 Ulster U-21 final. What I also thought was, will that long ball bring about a call for more long balls into the box? I think it might. But what I thought was that McKiernan only launched it into box because he was stuck for other options. There was a time when everyone would have assumed that in that juncture of the game, he would almost certainly launch it in, but possibly we have reached a point where that long ball is a surprise?