By Niall Gartland
BALLYHAISE celebrated their Cavan Intermediate Championship title with gusto but they’re treating their looming provincial campaign with the appropriate seriousness.
They take on Donegal champions Downings on Sunday at Kingspan Breffni Park and they’ll be in mighty form having made amends for the disappointments of recent years in Cavan.
Their championship final defeats in 2021 and 2022 stung the team but they harassed that disappointment and made it third time lucky with victory over Denn a few weeks back.
It’s a bit of a monkey off the back, even if their more experienced players tasted Cavan Intermediate success back in 2015, and manager Damien Keaney says it was just reward for all the team’s efforts.
“It’s not easy getting to finals and losing them, yes it’s a great experience but there’s nothing like winning a final. It’s a real relief to the players and everyone else involved in the set-up, but I thought it was very deserved.
“The boys definitely celebrated, they probably had the week of their lives after the final.
“They definitely didn’t hold back and really enjoyed it. They’ve settled down now, we’ve been back in training and we’re looking forward to testing ourselves in Ulster.”
Keaney, who was enlisted as part of Raymond Galligan’s new senior manager team in Cavan as a selector, acknowledges that there was more than a degree of pressure involved in getting over the line in the county. Now they can throw off the shackles as they gear up for this weekend’s quarter-final encounter with Downings.
“It’s exciting to be involved, it’s great to still be playing in November and hopefully it runs into December.
“It’s different but it’s very very exciting, we’ll be coming up against different players and different teams and it should be a great learning experience for ourselves.
“This Ballyhaise team were more than capable of reaching this stage over the last number of years and now they’ve won the Cavan Intermediate they can definitely take the shackles off and hopefully express themselves in Ulster.”
As for what he expects from their opponents Downings, he says that they’re a well-balanced side so it makes for a big challenge for the men from Ballyhaise.
“They won their own Intermediate title up there, I watched the video back and they’re a tough side.
“They’re quite defensive but at the same time carry a lot of attacking threat.
“They’re an up and coming team in Donegal and they’re like ourselves, they’ll be looking forward to play at senior level next year and they’ll be putting their best foot forward in this campaign.”