‘Good old journey’ of 2022 in rear view mirror for Kiernan

GAA news

A new year, a new season – as good a time as any to evaluate 2022. It’s fair to say opinion is split among supporters as to whether it was a positive year for the Cavan senior footballers.

Asked the same question, Oisin Kiernan thought long and hard too before giving an honest answer.

“We had a good old journey. We got out of Division 4 anyway, that was the main thing and then in the championship, Donegal got the better of us in the end. I think we matched them for large parts of that game, a bit disappointing that we didn’t push on, I suppose, but then it was Tailteann Cup and take every game as it comes,” the Castlerahan clubman said at the recent launch of the McKenna Cup in Cookstown.

“A bit like what I was saying about the Mckenna Cup, we were in it so why didn’t we give it a rattle anyway? Look, it was a great journey going through those games, brought the group closer together I think and hopefully brought us on a bit as well. Look, we fell short in the latter end but it’s something we have to learn from.

“I think it was…” he said, picking his steps carefully. “I’m not sure if a positive year is the right word but we got out of Division 4 I suppose and hopefully it will help us moving on.”

Kiernan’s comparing of the McKenna Cup and the Tailteann was interesting.

The fledgling tier two competition was heralded as a major success but there was still the sense that it was a consolation prize, certainly for the teams who, like Cavan, would have hoped to have had a shot at a provincial title.

That said, like most counties in Ireland, cannot turn their noses up at any competition and that applies to Ulster’s pre-season opener, which throws in this week. Cavan will be putting their best foot forward for it, Kiernan said.

First up is Antrim, whom Cavan will be very familiar with by this stage.

“We will be and we have met them the last couple of years too, so we definitely will be. There are no easy draws, they are all tough teams, so it didn’t really matter who we got as such. We’re looking forward to getting going and we’ll see what happens.

“I made my debut in the McKenna Cup against Tyrone in Breffni and we got a bit of a clipping. But I suppose you learn from those games, you learn from those things and you try to get to that level.

“I’ve always enjoyed the McKenna Cup and I think as a team we have because it’s the first competitive game, you get going again. Once the games start in the McKenna Cup, you know you’re into a run of games, the league is soon after so it’s always an enjoyable time of the year.”

While Cavan would like to win it out, it’s not a goal of theirs as such. The sense is that it’s all about giving it a go and if they end up in a position to make a final or lift a cup, great. If not, there won’t be any tears shed either.

“Any competition you’re in, you want to go and win it. To be honest, it’s not something that you talk about, to go out and win it (the McKenna Cup). But of course, I suppose you’re in it and you’d love to win it.

“I suppose it will all depend, if you get going and get a good start, get a bit of momentum going. We have to hopefully pick up a couple of wins and get to the semi-final spot and see what happens then.”

Looking back on last summer, there is a disappointment there.

The joyous scenes from Mullingar after Westmeath won the Tailteann stung; that could have been Cavan. Kiernan feels that the Blues did not do themselves justice in that final at HQ.

“No disrespect to Westmeath, we probably didn’t perform as well as we could. And even against Sligo, we probably didn’t perform to the level we probably could either. But again, you’re in Croke Park and it’s a different ball game when you get up there.

“But yeah, that’s probably the thing about it, we seemed to put a performance together for a large part of the game against Donegal and fell short and for a large part of the game against Westmeath, we didn’t put a performance together.”

While quite a few panellists have exited stage left, of the seven or eight most ‘capped’ players, all are on board for another crack at it in 2023.

“The core group is obviously there. There are new faces and there is lots of new energy which is also brilliant, it adds to it too. Every man is getting his chance, a lot of good players had good championships in Cavan so it’s good to see them getting the chance to wear the county jersey.”

Have the new players found the step up in physicality difficult?

“Not sure. I think you’d have to ask them themselves. The club scene is getting more competitive and the strength and conditioning side of it has upped at club level. So the lads that do come in are standing out for their clubs so they’re more than likely doing their bit (of strength and conditioning) anyway. Lads are in good shape coming in, yeah.”