Galligan harnessing Cavan’s potential

By Barry O’Donnell

RAYMOND Galligan believes that Tyrone’s loss is very definitely Cavan’s gain with Stephen O’Neill now a vital cog in his backroom team.

In recent times there has been clear evidence that the Breffni County have a few rough diamonds in attack who maybe required some pearls of wisdom from a footballing sage to brush them up. And what better man for the job than someone who has been there and done it on the biggest stage with Tyrone?

O’Neill, the 2005 All-Star Footballer of the Year, comes up against his native County at Kingspan Breffni this Sunday afternoon in the first round of the Ulster Senior Championship, and will be hugely satisfied to have seen his current side Cavan amass an impressive scoring tally of 3-12 in shocking Monaghan in their opening SFC contest a fortnight ago.

Former goalkeeper, now turned bainisteoir, Galligan was a key member of the Cavan side which so memorably claimed the Anglo-Celt trophy behind closed doors in the Covid championship of 2020. And he admits that he is thrilled to have someone of Stephen’s O’Neill’s calibre and track record on board during his rookie year at the management helm.

“We’re very blessed to have Stevie, it’ll be an emotional day next week as he’s such a legend in Tyrone, we’re very lucky to have him on board with us.”

While Tyrone’s form has been inconsistent since they annexed the All-Ireland back in 2021, Galligan still recognises the scale of the task that awaits the hosts this weekend.

“We know it’ll be a very tough challenge, it’s a very long time since we’ve beaten Tyrone, look they’ve been a top team for the last number of years and have a fantastic full forward line so we’ll have a lot of work to do to prepare for them.”

Having hung up his gloves at the end of last season, Galligan insists that he didn’t need asking twice when afforded the chance to manage many of his former playing colleagues.

“From being a part of that group for so many years, I saw there was so much opportunity and potential, I really felt when we got into Division Two that this team can really showcase themselves. We have so much to do and so much to improve on but I just felt that it’s an exciting opportunity and challenge, I was fortunate to get the role and I’m embracing it ever since.”

And he derived plenty of delight at marking his maiden championship assignment with a victory on the road over their battled-hardened neighbours, Monaghan.

“As a player you can visualise, you can practice, you have yourself nicely tuned in. This was probably the first time you feel you’re living in hope. You feel you’ve all the boxes ticked and you’ve set out the game-plan but you really have no control when they cross that line. It was a different feeling than the league game but I’m immensely proud of the effort of the lads.”

Cavan’s resilience was tested several times during the course of that riveting first round encounter at Clones. They trailed by two points as the match entered stoppage time, with Michael Hamill’s 68th-minute goal having apparently swung momentum firmly in favour of the Farney men.

But in the protracted ten minutes of stoppage time that was played it was the Breffni boys who seized the initiative and dramatic goals from Gerard Smith and Paddy Lynch helped to see the visitors over the winning line.

Galligan was pleased with the character and coolness displayed by his charges down the home straight at St Tiernach’s Park.

“The lads showed great composure, there is a lot of experience in this team, I think what was very important was that we we secured our kick-out.

“When we went two points down we kept chipping away and the lads showed huge experience. Teams like Monaghan, stepping off and allowing them to build attacks, you’re chasing shadows, our message has been once we get momentum we’ll keep coming and we reaped the rewards.”

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