Derry await in must-win test for Cavan

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After the loss to Fermanagh a week earlier, getting a victory and both points seemed all-important against Longford but for Cavan manager Mickey Graham, the commanding second-half performance was the most pleasing thing.

“We would have been very happy in the second half with the way lads controlled the game,” Graham said after the game.

“The wind picked up in that second half, it was quite strong out there and we told lads they’d have to keep the ball in hand and run it and not be trying to look for the long ball in because conditions were very tricky.

“I’d be very happy in the way the lads managed that game in the second half.

“We knew we had to work it to a certain area in the second half, that was on our minds and lads weren’t taking on those shots that they were taking on in the first half with the wind at their backs.

“They were definitely more aware of where they needed to get the ball to and they got the ball to the right positions after some great build-up play and patience. But again, no more than last week, we’d be happy with certain aspects but there’s lots more room for improvement.”

Cavan started slowly, took control of the match and then faded before half-time but as conditions worsened, they improved after the interval, agreed Graham.

“I think the boys definitely upped their work ethic, there definitely was more energy in them and I think they kind of knew what they needed to do. I thought, as I said, against the wind, they definitely upped their work-rate and you could see that, it was evident.

“Obviously Longford came back into it with a penalty but I was delighted with the response after that, the lads went back up and got the next score and then got the next score after that.

“Look, these are the games that you learn a lot about yourself and we’d be hoping we’ll take a lot of learnings from tonight. A lot of lads put in a big shift, a couple of newcomers again showed up well so… we got out of it what we wanted to get out of it to be honest.”

Longford’s late penalty came after Patrick Lynch fouled an opponent and the ref, under the new rules, adjudicated it to have been a clear goalscoring chance. The jury is out on the new regulations, Graham intimated.

“It’s a tough one. I watched last week a certain game where one lad was inside and he rolled outside it and it should have been a penalty. It’s a tough one for the referees, I feel for them because it’s very hard to know if it’s a clear goalscoring chance when there’s three or four bodies in there.

“That rule basically says if it’s a one-on-one but how can you call that a penalty when there were four or five bodies all around that area? It’s a controversial rule, I wonder will it stay… we’ll see.”

Graham has handed out debuts to five players in the last two matches, namely Patrick Lynch, Cian Reilly, Oisin Brady, Sean McEvoy and Caoimhan McGovern (starting debut). Having vowed to give players opportunities, he’s glad to have been able to do so.

“Yeah, we need to, if we don’t do it now, when are we going to do it? We have to look and see and know the depth of our panel. We have a few lads returning from injury over the next couple of weeks so the panel is going to get stronger.

But I think that’s what the performance came from today, knowing that there are lads on their way back and starting to put their hand up for selection. You’re only as strong as the lads that are behind you and we have a great bunch of lads there pushing everybody on.

“A couple of lads got their opportunities today and went out and took them which creates great competition within the squad and that’s what you like to see.”

The players who came on made a difference, he felt.

“That’s what substitutions are for, you’re not looking for them to come on and just make up the numbers, you’re looking for them to make an impact. That’s what we looked for last year and that’s what we got and the same today.

“It’s great when it happens, it doesn’t always happen that way but I’m just delighted we got the result against a very strong, big physical Longford team.”

Next up is another physically imposing side, free-scoring Derry who have notched two big wins already.

“Derry are probably a wee bit further down the line than us at the moment as regards preparation and fair play to Rory (Gallagher), he seems to have them ticking over really nicely. They seem to have hit the ground running.

“Watching them the last day against Longford, they were very efficient and made no mistakes. We’re expecting a really tough battle, they’ll be full of confidence after their two huge wins.”

As regards the players who picked up injuries, Graham said: “We’re hoping James isn’t serious, he got a tough fall there now, it wasn’t pretty. You see those falls, when you come down on your head, in rugby and sometimes they can be nasty. We’re just waiting to see how he is, he’s out in the hospital now and hopefully it’s not as serious as it looked and he can get back as quick as possible.

“Every week lads are getting stronger and other lads are starting to return, we’re not going to just throw them in either, we’ll give them an opportunity to get a few weeks’ training under their belt before we consider them.”

Cavan must plan without Ciaran Brady, who will unfortunately be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a dreaded cruciate ligament knee injury, and James Smith.

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