Donohoe – Mayo game was Cavan’s first real hiccup

By Niall Gartland

CAVAN GAA commentator Damien Donohoe believes that supporters shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater after a disappointing showing against Mayo in the first round of the All-Ireland group stages.

Raymond Galligan’s side slumped to a 0-20 to 1-8 defeat is what was by far their poorest showing in the championship arena to date, and it doesn’t get any easier as they host All-Ireland kingpins and the game’s standard-bearers Dublin this Saturday at Kingspsan Breffni.

Optimism is in short enough supply ahead of the match, particularly in the shadow of their defeat to Mayo, but coach and pundit Donohoe believes that fans should cut the team some slack.

He said: “It’s impossible to make a case for a Cavan win, and in that sense this game is a free pass. If we’re beaten by 15 points, it’s nearly expected, so if it’s any tighter you’re in bonus territory.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure going into this game at all, and what I’ve tried to get across to people is that while I’d be critical of how the team dealt with the Mayo game, it’s probably the first mistake Raymond Galligan has made in his management career.”

He continued: “If someone had said back in January, with Gearóid McKiernan and Thomas Galligan missing from the team, and Dara McVeety missing most of the season, that we’d finish third in Division Two, beat Monaghan in Clones, run Tyrone to extra-time and then get hammered, I’d have said, you know what, I’ll take that all day long.”

The Breffni County were dealt a body blow in the lead up to their All-Ireland campaign that their attacking linchpin Paddy Lynch sustained an ACL injury that ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Galligan named an attack-minded line-up on the evening of their first-round clash against Mayo, but made a number of last-minute adjustments to the starting 15 with defensive solidity in mind. Donohoe finds it difficult to wrap his head around the changes that were made at the final hour.

“The Mayo game was just such a disappointment. It came with the backdrop of Paddy Lynch’s injury, and everyone was wondering who was going to step up – who was going to score the seven-and-a-half points that Paddy was averaging a game?

“When I saw Cormac O’Reilly, Caoimhin O’Reilly and Oisin Brady named before the game, I thought it was an attacking move, but the changes before the game changed the perception of what Cavan were trying to do, and it just didn’t work.”

He added: “Cavan were passive really, we lacked finishers, we created a fair amount of chances but not as many as Mayo. It wasn’t a defensive set-up as such, it was defensive in terms of personnel. Everyone bar James Smith and Oisin Brady had played as a defender on a Cavan team at some stage, so we didn’t really have an attacking outlet.”

There was also criticism bandied about in relation to the decision to station midfielder James Smith in attack. Donohoe understands the thought process behind that move, however.

“Mickey Graham and myself were on commentary on local radio, and Mickey’s point the whole time was that we were beaten at midfield and we’ve a ball winner at full-forward that we weren’t really using anyway.

“But to Raymond’s credit, two years ago they played Mayo in a challenge match in Kingspan Breffni between the provincials and Tailteann Cup. James ran amok at full-forward line.

“James Burke was coaching the Mayo team, he’s now involved with Cavan, and I imagine the management team thought, well he can do that again. It didn’t work out unfortunately but I imagine that’s what they were thinking.”

It’ll take something completely extraordinary for Cavan to inflict defeat on Dublin, so the likelihood is that their group stage fate will hinge on their third and final match against Roscommon. Donohoe believes that the loss of Lynch to injury is even more significant than most people, particularly outside the county, appreciate.

“He scores highly and a lot of that comes from frees, so people immediately devalue his contribution from open play.

“But first and foremost every team we’ve played so far this year put their best man-marker on Paddy, which gives our other forwards a bit more freedom and space.

“That defender doesn’t move away from Paddy thinking ‘this lad’s not a threat’ as he is, he breaks lines and wins ball.

“He was very good from open play against Cork, was involved in two goals against Louth, would’ve scored a goal against Monaghan only for a brilliant save from Monaghan. He contributes an awful lot from open play while it mightn’t look like it on the scoresheet.”

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