Enda Maguire and Kevin Maguire contest possession in the closing moments of the game. Photo: Adrian Donohoe

Graham expects a “tough” battle with bruised Tipp

Cavan v Tipperary

Kingspan Breffni

Sunday, February 5

Throw-in: 2pm

Cavan will seek to build on the momentum of their opening league win as they welcome Tipperary to Kingspan Breffn this weekend.

Lips and wounds will be licked by the opposing teams ahead of Sunday afternoon’s Round 2 encounter.

Mickey Graham’s team will be licking their lips in anticipation after an excellent display away to Westmeath. An early league win is unlikely to be regarded as avenging last year’s Tailteann Cup final disappointment, but the scalp of a much fancied Westmeath team will surely sharpen the focus on a season which now holds much promise.

While Westmeath fielded two thirds of the team to start in Croker, less than half of Cavan’s Tailteann Cup starters were on the pitch from the outset in Mullingar. Graham also gave debuts to a clutch of new faces, all of who performed with merit - most notably Tiarnan Madden in Cavan’s increasingly influentual halfback line.

Meanwhile, Tipperary will arrive in Cavan Town licking their wounds after they were found wanting against a Down team that hadn’t won since May 2021. Tipperary endured a three point defeat despite Down having a player sent off on 40 minutes, and the Mournemen’s goalkeeper gifting a soft goal. However, in Tipperary’s defence, Down’s success could in part be explained by the obligatory new manager bounce under county favourite Conor Laverty.

Despite Tipperary’s faltering start, Graham will not under-estimate the experienced Munster side. Having joined Cavan as the promoted teams from Division 4, Tipperary won the corresponding fixture last March - also in Kingspan Breffni - by four points (1-07 to 1-11).

The following month Graham’s men rallied to claim the Division 4 title with a victory by the narrowest of margins, inspired by a sensational Paddy Lynch performance in which he scored 2-03.

“We know there’s lots of work to be done and we won’t look any further than Tipperary next week,” said the Gaels clubman. “We always get it tough against them and there’s never much in it, so we have to take it one game at a time.”

Mindful of lengthening an already significant injury list, Graham eased Lynch into action for the final quarter of Sunday’s contest.

“Every week Paddy will be getting fitter and fitter so hopefully he’ll get more game time. But he has to force his way in there now because the lads who were in there today really worked hard so there’s nothing guaranteed.”

On the injury front Graham reports that Gerry Smith’s exclusion was precautionary as he had “felt a wee bit tight”.

“Hopefully Gerry will be available for next week,” he offered.

Graham is also hopeful the trio of Gearoid McKiernan, James and Conor Smith, will be available for selection against Tipperary. He added encouragingly: “And a few of the other lads are all returning week after week so you’d be hoping that it will strengthen the squad and give us a bit more depth.”

Conor Brady appeared to suffer an injury, but the extent was unknown.

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the Westmeath victory, halfback Ciaran Brady urged Cavan supporters to come out in force for Sunday’s Kingspan Breffni contest.

“They [Tipperary] probably won’t bring a huge support, so we’d hope if we can get Cavan supporters behind us, we’ll continue on and get a run of form behind us. We want to show what we’re about with this brand of kicking football. “We’ve had many close battles with Tipperary so it will be close, there won’t be much in it.”