Cavan Gaels will carry the hopes of the county into the Ulster series this Sunday and, says their manager Jason O'Reilly, they are “chomping at the bit” as they take on Antrim champions Lámh Dearg.
Former Cavan goal king O'Reilly attended the Antrim final and is confident that the standard was no better than what was on show in Cavan.
With home advantage and a clean bill of health, the Gaels – installed as 4/9 favourites – are fancied to pick up Cavan's first win in the competition since the Gaels beat St Gall's in 2008.
“We're all grand, all fairly good. Stephen Murray is probably the only injury doubt but I'd say he'll be alright come Sunday, it's just a tweak of the hamstring from the final,” said O'Reilly.
“Training has gone well. We came back on the Friday night and we had 38 there and they're all chomping at the bit in fairness, they're mad to get at it. There's a good bit of bite and a lot of competition for places. They're all mad to get back on the field.”
O'Reilly was struck by the determined attitude of the players when they were returned to training, although he dismissed suggestions that the Gaels have unfinished business with the Ulster Club Championship.
“We haven't spoken much about it to be honest, we're just focusing on Antrim. They have been in Ulster before and probably didn't do themselves justice, they were maybe just happy with the Cavan championship. But they seem very up for this anyway.
“The Friday night was just getting them back together and then Sunday you could see that the bit was between their teeth again, they were ready for Ulster and they knew what it would take to get a good run in Ulster.
“And that's what they're looking for, they believe that they're good enough to get a good run in Ulster and they'll not get a better opportunity, especially the way the draw is, you'd have to say it has been kind to us but that's not saying there will be anything easy at the same time, far from it.
“We're just worrying about the Antrim champions first, that's all you can worry about. It's good to get home advantage but you don't get very much sometimes off Ulster referees, you have to trry and beat them all. You could even see that in the intermediate and junior matches.”
Lámh Dearg edged past St John's in the Antrim final in an all-city clash.
“I got to see them. There wasn't much between them and St John's, they kept going, it was a draw with time up and they got two points in injury time to win it.
“The likes of Castlerahan would compete very strongly with them, the standard isn't that much better or anything like that. There wasn't much hitting in it, the only hititng there was was when the two brothers went at it!” he joked, in reference to an incident with two brothers playing on opposing sides both picking up cards for a tangle with each other.
“I am looking forward to it, I was there with Lacken before and it definitely is a step up. When you have a team chomping at the bit to do well in Ulster it helps. The Gaels have lots of experience in Ulster but just haven't performed as well as they would have liked so hopefully we can do that this Sunday.”