Cavan minor manager John Brady has achieved one goal this season in reaching the Ulster Minor Football Championship final – and going out and finishing the job on Sunday would be the second part of the plan.
Brady was appointed as manager at the tail end of last year and brought with him the same backroom team – including Barney Brady, James Moynagh and Keelan Mulaniff, with new addition John Young – that had been successful at U16 level in the previous two years.
And when the think tank sat down to set some goals at the outset, making the Ulster final was right there on the list. In that sense, it’s a case of mission accomplished. Not that many outside commentators are giving the Blues a decent shout at upsetting favourites Derry this weekend, something which amused the genial Ramor United man.
“When we met up first, we laid out a few markers for the year and one of the things we were hoping to achieve was a place in the Ulster final. That was within the camp only but outside our group we weren’t given much of a chance. We went in as very big underdogs against Monaghan and the same against Down.
“At the launch last Friday a few northern journalists were there and nobody was expecting us to come within seven points of Derry. But, look, we’re there anyway and it’s a great position to be in going into a final. It made our job easy that day,” he smiled.
“The fact that they knocked Tyrone out and were perceived to be on the harder side of the draw is probably a big reason that they’re seen as strong favourites.”
Brady will name his team this week and says that competition in the panel is intense, with just one major injury doubt, Swanlinbar’s Ruairi Curran, to report.
“We should have Cormac Timoney back but I think, at this stage, Ruairi Curran will miss out. He has osteitis pubis and a hamstring injury as well so that was a double whammy.
“Timoney had glandular fever but he is back training now and hopefully should be available for selection.
“Things have gone well since the Down game and we have everyone fighting for places and no further injuries. It’s just as hard to pick the panel of 24 as it is to pick the starting 15, there will be lads who don’t get in on it who will be unlucky but it’s a sign that there’s lot of competition for places.
“That’s the good thing about it, the lads are really chomping at the bit in training which is good to see.
Derry will pose a stern examination and Brady has been impressed with their flexibility in terms of tactics.
“They have played styles in different games, we have seen them play a few times and they seem to be able to adapt to the opposition. They didn’t play a sweeper against Antrim, for example, but they were a little bit more defensive against Tyrone, although they came out and atttacked in the second half of that game as well,” said Brady, who stated that he could see the match being quite open.
If that is the case, it should suit his charges, who have played very well on the front foot to date.
“It’s something we would have worked on. Even in the Gerry Reilly tournament games two years, we tried to encourage fast movement of the ball and a lot of long kicking, we work on that a lot in training, moving the ball forward as fast they can. I personally can’t tolerate slow build-up play, we instruct the lads to drive forward.
“When I started in the job I said we were going to play that way and it’s great to be able to do so and win some games.”
There is, of course, room for improvement. “We are going to have to tighten up a wee bit early on in games and definitely not concede goals or scoring chances coming down the middle. The second half the last day, I thought we tightened up well at the back.
“For the first 15 or 20 minutes we were disappointed to concede two goals against Down because we only conceded two points along with that.
“But there was a deceptive wind that day and we were confident enough when we got in at half-time that we would be able to pull it back and turn it around.
“We need to tighten up a wee bit at the back but if we can do that, hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts. You don’t know either until the day itself. This is their third final, they have that experience from last year but it was a losing experience. And hopefully they’ll have another one on Sunday!”