‘Nobody is more frustrated than the lads, we’re better than that’
Cavan manager Mickey Graham did not try to hide his disappointment after the match against Tyrone. The Cavan Gaels clubman felt Cavan were in with a great chance coming into the game but in many ways, he said, the Breffni men were the architects of their own downfall.
“Very disappointed. I felt we were in a good place coming into the game. The first quarter, we’d have been happy with where we were at, we were getting lots of ball, making lots of turnovers, but I thought the five or six minutes before half-time was probably where the game turned,” said Graham.
“There were two points in it, we had a couple of chances to bring it back to an even game but they kicked on and got two more scores to leave four in it and that kind of gave them a wee bit of breathing space going into the second half.
“We had the ball and lost possession going up the field and they got a goal from it. And that’s basically curtains then after that.”
Cavan had a couple of half-chances for goals before half-time which they didn’t take.
“We felt that any goal opportunity that came our way, we’d have to take them. We had two half-chances there, as I said we didn’t take them, and even if we had got two points from them, it’s a two-point game at half-time. And they went down and got scores from that as well.”
Most frustratingly, Graham felt that Cavan coughed up possession far too easily at times.
“A lot of their scores were contributed to by ourselves basically. It wasn’t that they got the ball off us or won clean possession, it was that we gave the ball away cheaply at times. It was just frustrating to watch it because the lads are better than that and it’s just probably nerves or something.
“We had the ball up inside their half and didn’t gather it, they counter-attacked, got us on the break and got the goal. That was the score they were looking for, a goal was always going to be huge in this game and if that goal hadn’t gone in, maybe who knows. But look, it is what it is now.”
Graham said that his players battled to the end. The only way to right this wrong, he insisted, is through hard work and adding more talent to the panel.
“They didn’t give up. There’s nobody more frustrated than the lads themselves. They know themselves they had a great chance, we felt coming into the game that we had a great chance and it was just our skill execution and wrong options at times. They’d be the first lads to say that,
“But the damage is done now, we have to lick our wounds and park it up now and move forward.
“It’s as simple as this, you either feel sorry for yourself and accept all the negativity that goes on and let people run players down and say that we don’t have them or you just roll up the sleeves, put the head down and work your socks off and try and unearth new talent and try and encourage people to play for Cavan because the lads who are in that changing room now are very committed.
“Not one of those players stepped away from the panel the last two and a half years, they’ve shown in games when they were dead and buried that they keep coming back and sometimes the criticism that they get is unwarranted.
“We were hit with a lot of injuries at the beginning of the year, it was a short league and we tried to change our game a wee bit and we paid the price for it.
“And then with the condensed league, other teams were sharper in those three league games but there was a kick of a ball in each one of them.
“People can take out of it what they want and they can make a big deal of it all they want but we are down at the bottom there now and we have to try and start building and get back up the ladder.
“It wasn’t that long ago Derry were down there and look at them now in the space of two or three years. It’s all about sticking together as a group and everybody rowing in behind each other because Cavan are better than that and we know they are.
“They showed it last year but it just didn’t happen this year for some reason. The players are united there and hopefully we’ll unearth more talent during the club championships and get back to where we need to and I have no doubt we will.”
While pointing out that Ciaran Brady and James Smith were “huge losses to us”, Graham had words of encouragement for young debutants Cian Reilly and Oisin Brady.
“It was a huge baptism of fire for them but Oisin got lots of ball and it’s a learning experience for him and Cian. Cian is not going to come up against a better forward than Darren McCurry this season.
“He’ll learn from that, those boys are young and I said to them there, don’t take it to heart, they will become better players from it. If we unearth another two or three players like those two lads, Cavan will be in a good place in a couple of seasons.”