Cavan great O’Reilly confident of an upset

By Niall Gartland

THROWING caution completely to the wind mightn’t be the wisest idea, but Cavan legend Damien O’Reilly wants to see the Breffni County have a proper crack at it in their first foray into the new All-Ireland round robin series.

Cavan have been pitted in what could be justifiability termed a group of death alongside Mayo, Dublin and Roscommon.

They get their campaign underway against Mayo this Saturday in Castlebar and O’Reilly wouldn’t be one bit surprised if they pull off something of a minor shock against the Connacht side.

Indeed, he points to the presence of ex-Mayo coach James Burke in the Cavan backroom as a factor pointing to a possible upset this weekend.

O’Reilly said: “We did well in Ulster and I think there’s a good chance of getting out of the group. Neutrals will probably look at the fixtures and think that the third-placed finish will come down to the game against Roscommon on the last day but it’ll really shake the whole thing up if Cavan beat Mayo.

“Dublin are the standard-bearers and difficult for any team, but Cavan will travel to Mayo this weekend expecting to win. Paddy Lynch is a big miss but I still think they’ll give a good account themselves.

“James Burke is part of the backroom team and he’ll know the Mayo team inside out so that’s an added bonus for Cavan, and I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if they beat Mayo.”

Cavan gave Tyrone an almighty scare in the last eight of the provincial series, losing out by a single point after a marathon contest settled after extra-time. They were slow to get going, however, and another inconsistent performance probably won’t cut the mustard against a Mayo side that remain one of the top eight teams in the country. Kevin McStay’s side lost the Connacht final by a point and they’ll be something of a wounded animal given the nature of that defeat, so Cavan can’t afford to feel their way into the game.

O’Reilly commented: “It was the same against Monaghan really. It’s like they come out fighting when they’re backed into a corner – this idea that ‘now we’ll go at it as we have nothing else to lose.’

“I think the general consensus among Cavan supporters would be that they’d rather lose a game while having a go as opposed to being as cautious as they were in the first-half against Tyrone.”

Indeed, it was evident that the Cavan supporters found their voice in the second half against the Red Hands when they put their shoulder to the wheel and came back into the contest. Kingspan Breffni was rocking, and O’Reilly says that momentum is a powerful thing.

“The problem is that it’s difficult for supporters to get motivated and excited when there’s a lot of slow deliberate play and back and forth passes. It’s a lot easier when there’s a spectacular point, or a goal or two, and that’s what happened the last day against Tyrone.

“After half time they got a couple of scorers and you could see the momentum building and that’s what supporters want to see. We want to see Cavan going all out to try to win games, rather than to avoid losing them.”

On the whole, Raymond Galligan has done well in his first season in charge of the Breffnimen. It was something of a curveball when the long-standing goalkeeper threw his hat in the ring following Mickey Graham’s departure, but it’s been a useful campaign to date and they’ll be disappointed if they don’t find a way into the preliminary quarter-finals on the assumption that Dublin top the group.

O’Reilly said: “Raymond is doing well to be fair to him. It’s a big change and he’s friendly with a lot of the lads and has had to make tough calls.

“He’s met his own expectations so far this year I’d say. Yes we had a couple of poorish results mixed into the league but finished well up the table. We’re in the All-Ireland series and it’s great to have three extra games to qualify and maybe even a fourth. They’re exciting games too and hopefully we’ll have some more good days out.”

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