By Niall Gartland
A PRODUCTIVE McKenna Cup campaign sets the backdrop for Cavan’s Division Three opener against Westmeath this Sunday.
It’s a tough opener – Westmeath narrowly missed out on promotion last year, finishing third in the table, and they got the better of the Breffni County when they met in the inaugural Tailteann Cup final, finishing strongly at Croke Park.
That defeat will have festered for some months, but Mickey Graham has recommitted for another year and they had a decent McKenna Cup campaign, reaching the semi-finals where they lost by five points to Tyrone.
Graham will have learnt a lot from their outings in the McKenna Cup – they used 32 players over three competitive games with regulars like Gearóid McKiernan, Paddy Lynch, Jason McLoughlin and Killian Brady sitting out the competition, some of whom are carrying injuries at the moment.
In a recent interview, with The Anglo Celt, Graham said he was delighted with the contributions of his younger players, suggesting that they’ll get their chance to shine in the league as well.
“I think we used 32 players so we have to say we’d be delighted from that end of things.
“When you start the National League, you want lads who have game time under their belts. We know the quality the lads have but it’s just about maybe getting them up to speed now.”
The Breffni County will have big ambitions for their Division Three campaign, albeit there’s stiff competition for the promotion spots from the likes of Westmeath, Down, Fermanagh, Offaly and Tipperary.
That said, the 2022 Ulster Champions have welcomed back Dara McVeety and Conor Moynagh and they’ll be quietly confident of a successful promotion push.
Their first round opponents Westmeath played two games in the O’Byrne Cup, narrowly losing to Louth in their first day out before a one-sided win over Wexford. They have a strong team, with their talisman John Heslin back for another year, so this is a tricky hurdle for Cavan to navigate.