1: That sinking feeling
The 2020 season saw Cavan win an incredible Ulster title, but a few months later they were dropping down to Division Four of the National League after a disastrous campaign.
The shortened group stage saw Mickey Graham’s side involved in three tight games, but they came out on the right side of just one of those – against Longford – with Fermanagh Derry edging them out.
There seemed little need to panic as they were pitted against a Wicklow side that has lost to Offaly, Tipperary and Limerick – the latter of those by 10 points – in the relegation play-off. However, the Garden county were deserving 3-11 to 0-18 winners with the Breffni county stirring far too late.
They will begin their 2022 year in Division Four in a few weeks’ time, and they must deliver a commanding response to last year’s disappointment.
2: Hurlers making progress
The Cavan hurling story is pretty well told at this stage, but a quick reminder – they returned to the Lory Meagher Cup in 2017 after six years not competing before re-entering the National Hurling League in 2018.
Jumping back in was seen as a risk by some at the time, but although operating at the lowest level, they have managed to continually field and have been improving year-on-year.
That was evident again in 2021 as they got to play in Croke Park in a national final after reaching the Lory Meagher decider.
They had defeated the Erne county in their group match and got past Louth in the semi-final, but Fermanagh would get their revenge in the final.
The format changes this year with all teams in one big group rather than two small sections, and Cavan will be hoping for another shot at the crown. New manager Neil Cole will be in charge of that task.
3: Denn buck the trend
Ulster Club football and Cavan teams generally don’t mix that well. In fact, the county’s record in the competition is pretty awful.
Prior to this season only Swanlinbar (2010 Junior) and Ballinagh (2007 Intermediate) had won provincial titles. There is a bit of an asterisk to that too as the Swad’s win came in the boardroom as their final opponents Corduff had fielded an underage player.
There was no asterisk for Denn in 2021 though as they produced a stunning performance against Donegal outfit Downings to claim the Ulster Junior title on a 3-8 to 0-10 scoreline.
Stephen Baxter’s side had that knack that all good teams have of getting goals at the right time with Mark McSherry putting the cherry on top with their last goal at the death.
A lot of celebrations followed, but more is in store as they head into the All-Ireland series.
4: Castlerahan relegated to Intermediate
From 2015 to 2019, Castlerahan were in five county finals in a row, losing the first three before going back-to-back in the final of those two.
Having also reached the 2011 decider, they undoubtedly have been the most consistent team in the competition over the last decade but come 2022, they will be plying their trade in the Intermediate Championship.
The side lost all four of their group games starting with a 5-5 to 2-11 loss to Lavey. After a narrow loss to Mullahoran they lost out to Cavan Gaels and Ballinagh to ensure that they finished bottom of the table.
5: Gowna native enjoys All-Ireland success
One of the biggest sporting moments of 2021 was Meath’s shock All-Ireland ladies success, and Gowna native Eamon Murray was the genius behind the victory.
Underdogs for the quarter-final against Armagh, the semi-final against Cork and the final against Dublin, they produced three tactical masterclasses to win a Senior Championship less than a year after winning the Intermediate crown.
Murray won a Cavan Junior Championship in 1982 with Gowna and the Breffni man has enjoyed more success on the managerial circuit.