By Niall Gartland
A BUMPER Cavan contingent travelled for their opening day league encounter away to Westmeath last weekend – so you’d imagine there’ll be an even stronger support base at Kingspan Breffni for this Sunday’s clash against Tipperary.
The Breffni County supporters outnumbered the Westmeath fans by a rough estimate of two to one according to accounts, and they got their money’s worth with a deserved victory to get their Division Three campaign up and running.
It’s still early days in the new year, but the signs are positive from a Cavan perspective – despite missing a few injured regulars like Gearoid McKiernan, Jason McLoughlin and James Smith, they exacted a measure of revenge for last year’s Tailteann Cup final defeat to Westmeath on a scoreline of 0-12 to 1-6.
Mickey Graham handed out six league debuts in total and most of the newcomers fared well. Evan Finnegan and Niall Carolan (captain of last year’s Cavan u-20 team) played extremely well in the corner-back spots, Ryan O’Neill showed well up front while Oisin Brady, even though he wasn’t quite as potent as during the McKenna Cup, is proving himself an adept free-taker.
But what really seems to have pleased the Cavan supporters was the impact of two of their most recognised footballers. Dara McVeety has returned after three years in Australia and remains a monster of a player, while Ciaran ‘Holla’ Brady (perhaps unlucky not to receive an All-Star in 2020) has recovered from an ACL injury and looked as good as ever. Above all else, they add a sense of directness to Cavan’s play, while veteran goalkeeper Raymond Galligan nailed his three frees, another obvious asset.
On the flipside, they aren’t looking too strong in the midfield sector at present. Thomas Galligan is taking a year out while Gearóid McKieran and Conor Brady are injured, so it remains to be seen who will parter Killian Clarke in this weekend’s game against Tipperary.
It’s a particular source of concern as it’s an area where they seemed to struggle in their matches against Tipperary last year (they lost their group stage league outing before claiming a narrow victory in Croke Park in the Division Four showdown.)
Paddy Lynch was the hero that day as the claimed a 2-10 to 0-15 victory, and he’s still getting up to match pace, having picked up 15 minutes against Westmeath.
Tipperary won the Munster title three years ago with victory over Cork, but of the 40-man panel they were carrying at that time, there are only 14 players still involved, an incredible statistic. They lost their opening day fixture against an in-form Down, but they played fairly well, losing by three points. It’s a tough enough assignment for Cavan but if they play to their potential, they should make it two-from-two.