Cavan Under 20s manager Damien Donohoe gets behind his players. Photo: Adrian Donohoe.

Donohoe’s U20s gear up for Monaghan test

D-day arrives for the Cavan U20s this Friday as they take on Monaghan in the first round of the Ulster Championship (Inniskeen, 8pm), with manager Damien Donohoe reporting almost a clean bill of health.

Gowna’s Ryan Brady is ruled out but otherwise, Donohoe hopes to have a full deck to call on for this knock-out clash.

“We pretty much have everybody we were expecting to have. A couple of players will just be coming back from injury in time, whether they are fit to start or not, we’ll make the call over the next week. Ryan Brady is out but we’ve known that for a few weeks now and it’s something we’ve planned for. Everybody else we expected to have, we’ll have,” Donohoe said.

“With regard to seniors, the only player it’s affecting is Cian Reilly and he should be available to us barring some injuries with the seniors meaning he’d have to play the league final with them. We’re still waiting on definite word on that but my understanding is we will have Cian.”

Last year, all teams’ preparations were disrupted with the pandemic and Cavan were well beaten in the opening round against eventual Ulster champions Down. There are 11 survivors from the squad, some of whom missed that Down game due to injury, and Donohoe says they have “gelled well together so far”.

The Drumalee clubman’s backroom team consists of Mark McKeever (coach and selector), Peter McGinnity (goalkeeping coach and selector), Killian Brady (performance coach), Jim Kiernan (referee and opposition analysis), Ryan Tully (player liaison and co-ordinator), Aidan Smith (county board liaison and co-ordinator) and Caoin McCabe (kit man).

The stats team are Kieran Denneny, Felim Reilly, Brian McDonald and Peadar Soden. The physio is Adam Heaslip and Andre Quinn has been looking after strength and conditioning.

Cavan won one and lost two games in the Philly McGuinness Development League.

“We started off with a defeat to Monaghan away in the first round after our Armagh game was cancelled due to snow. We played them over in Cloghan, we lost by two points in the end. We got off to a very slow start and clawed our way back into the game.

The difference

“The goal was probably the difference between the sides, we were disappointed with how we conceded that goal but the workrate was good and we were happy enough with certain aspects of our game coming away from it.

“Then we played Westmeath the following Friday night in Kingspan Breffni and we didn’t show up at all. We lacked energy, we lacked work-rate, our decision-making was poor, we gave away the ball cheaply.

“We took shots from positions that weren’t on so overall our performance was very, very flat. We were very disappointed with it and it left us with a lot to work on.

“The following Friday night we played Armagh in Bawnboy and we got off to a really good start, that was the first game that we got off to a good start in. Thanks to that good start, we held on in the end, we were holding on as they came back at us.

“We did well on trying to win turnovers, we worked very, very hard and we probably tired and that’s where Armagh got back into the game. Every time Armagh got two or three scores in a row, we managed to get back up the other end of the field and get scores so that was a pleasing aspect, we didn’t let Armagh get too much of a run of scores.

“Even when they did get back into the game within a point, we responded really well and went five points ahead again. Happier coming away from the Armagh game, it was our only victory so you’re going to be a bit happier but we know that we are going to have to do the things we did well for longer in order to get a complete performance.”

Monaghan start as favourites on Friday and Donohoe has been very impressed by them to date. He expects the Farney men to bring their normal “really high standard” of performance to the pitch.

“This team won the Ulster Minor Championship, beat Cork and went on to play Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final.

“They have a lot of the team from last year’s Ulster U20 final which they narrowly lost to Down. They have an awful lot of quality, the likes of Jason Irwin, Michael Hamill, Darragh Dempsey, Liam McDonald, Stephen Mooney, Darragh Treanor. Karl Gallagher maybe at midfield or in the forward line, they have so much quality across the team – they have Thomas McPhilips, a really good full-back, and Joe Quirke who is the senior sub goalkeeper.

“Hanratty at corner-back is on the senior squad, Eoin Duffy wing-back, Kyle Donnelly. Their captain Ronan Boyle at centre-back is a real good player too and they all have a lot of experience.


“We’ll be up against it, Monaghan will be favourites to win Ulster I’d imagine with the bookmakers and they’ve been consistently performing at underage for the last five, six, seven years and I don’t expect any different from them.

“They’re going to be really hard to beat but we’ve done our preparations for it and we’ll give it our best shot.”

The Cavan boss has been very happy with the response of his players and believes they have prepared as well as possible for this test.

“We’ve been on the go since early December. Essentially bar taking a week off at Christmas it’s been three pitch sessions a week and the lads have been doing their gym work twice a week. We meet at least four times a week – nobody has complained and the lads have worked exceptionally hard.

“I couldn’t ask for any more of them. I think the players themselves see the benefit of the work. It’s been very very hectic for them, they’re in school, doing Leaving Certs, college exams, some are working and it’s not easy on them but I think the guys are enjoying it.

“They’re in good shape now, we had a pretty bad run of injuries for a while there but it’s starting to clear up and lads are getting back on the field just at the right time hopefully.

“I’d like to have had them a little bit earlier but the players’ response and their attitude have been exemplary. With the exception of the Westmeath game, in our training sessions and our games we’ve brought the right attitude. The lads have worked really hard, they’ve been doing their very best to show that in their performances and hopefully they show it against Monaghan on Friday night.”

Cavan will be captained on the night by Niall Carolan (Cuchulainns).