The new manager of Cavan Ladies hopes to unearth some young “superstars” as he targets an Ulster Championship and promotion with his new charges.
South Armagh man James Daly managed Longford to Division 4 success last year but is looking forward to taking over the helm at Cavan this year, replacing outgoing manager Aidan McCabe. Daly is confident in his new team, and in his own ability to get the best of them.
“I wouldn’t be coming here if I didn’t think we could win,” he tells The Anglo-Celt. “I’m not stoking my own fire, but I’ve won everywhere I’ve been, and I expect to win in Cavan.”
Daly was complimentary of the managers who came before him, but believes he could be the man to ensure they fulfil their potential.
“I seen a team who for me, maybe the full potential hasn’t been got out of them. No disrespect to anyone who’s gone before me – I’m a firm believer in sometimes a new set of lungs, a new way of working, a new voice in training can maybe bring a wee bit more out of them.
“To me I look at Cavan and maybe they are the nearly team over the last couple of years. Conor Barry did an outstanding job and Aidan [McCabe] carried it on last year, doing a very good job. There is more growth in this panel and in this team, and hopefully myself and - I don’t have a backroom team yet, but when I get them in place - hopefully we be able to deliver what it will take to get them over the proverbial hump.”
Whilst observing that “some people get a bit carried away with targets” the Drumintee clubman was happy to aim high for his tenure in charge.
“I go out to win every single game of ball we play,” said Daly who managed Clann Eireann to two consecutive league and county championship doubles in Armagh in 2016-17. “First and foremost is promotion out of division two – that’s a no-brainer. I also think that Division Two is treacherous because you have Armagh just after being relegated and you have Tipperary who have just got promoted and you have a lot of good teams in there – it’s going to be a tough league but for me that’s our target first and foremost.
“After that it’s the Ulster Championship. I fully believe that this team can win an Ulster Championship. A big part of it is to get the girls to believe that they can win an Ulster Championship.
“We have the best players – I think if we can get the right mix and the right game plan in place – we have as good a squad to go forward as what’s in Ulster.”
In the course of the interview he repeatedly speaks of the importance of instilling a winning mentality in the squad.
“One thing a team has to do is to learn how to win, and believe they can win. I think that winning is a habit. It’s the same as losing - you get into the habit of losing, players will come in not expecting to win, they’ll find ways of losing games. It’s up to us to find the right recipe and push us that wee bit further this year.”
The health of Cavan Ladies’ football was highlighted recently in the clubs’ performances in Ulster. Senior Cavan champions Lurgan fought well against Donaghmoyne, before finally succumbing to the highly fancied Monaghan champions. Meanwhile both Intermediate champions Crosserlough, and Junior champions Cornafean reached Ulster finals, with the Reds only losing out after extra time.
James Daly brings an impressive CV to the Breffni job. His trophy haul is too extensive to run through here but includes silverware at club, university, county, and provincial level. Highlights include winning the All Ireland Minor with Armagh in 2011, before moving up to the senior grade. He took Armagh when they were in the third division Intermediate team having won just one competitive game. The following year they claimed the Intermediate All Ireland title. After four years in charge he had left them back in Division 1, and had halted Monaghan’s bid for a five in a row by winning the Ulster Senior Championship in 2013.
Daly has a pragmatic approach to style of football.
“I like to look at my squad first – and if you have good defenders then you don’t necessarily have to play sweepers. If you don’t have six good defenders well then you are tied to playing sweepers and a more defensive game.
“I like to move the ball quickly – I don’t like to be dilly-dallying with it. We like to move the ball quick and catch the team on the hop, but a lot of that comes down to hard training and getting girls fit enough to play that sort of game.”
In his eagerness to get good footballers into a team, he’s open to trying players out in unfamiliar positions – like he did with Armagh’s Mairéad Tennyson back in 2013.
“When I was in Armagh I took a girl who had played corner forward her whole life and I converted her to a cornerback and she won an All Star the following year. And Mairéad has played in defence for Armagh since.”
The first of a series of open trials was held in Breffni Park’s 3G pitch last night, and it wouldn’t be surprising if new, unknown talent is brought into the senior panel. James has a good record for bringing through minors to senior panels with an eye to the future. Last year he had five minors on Longford Seniors’ starting team.
“We want new blood... It’s in the rough that you’re going to find some new superstars – and there is new superstars out there to be found.
“I’ll be looking to bring young talent through and to give young girls a chance.”
Daly is busy running his own glass business, so he readily agrees with the Celt that his taking the Cavan post is a major commitment. He’ll undertake a two and a half hour round trip to Breffni Park for each training session and home match. He will insist that his commitment is reciprocated by players.
“It’s a big thing in the locker as well - anyone giving you some bullshit excuse, well look it - I’m driving a 120 mile round trip to be here - you can drive 20 mile up the road to me.”
Given the enthusiasm and positivity Daly exudes, it’s hard to imagine too many players missing training. Roll on 2018!