Clarke: 'There are a couple of those Voldemorts around!'
With pop music playing over the tannoy and kids playing on the pitch, there was a carnival-type atmosphere at HQ on Sunday after the game as Cavan fans lingered, savouring a power-packed finale which saw Down swatted aside.
For Killian Clarke, there was a lot of satisfaction in overcoming stubbornly defensive opposition.
“Down were quite defensive in the first half, they dropped off and that has been a small bit of an Achilles heel for us for the last few years, breaking down those teams who put 14, 15 men behind the ball,” said the Shercock man.
“In the second half, there was a point or two in it early on so it kind of forced Down out and created opportunities for ourselves. We finished the game quite strong with a number of the substitutions that we made, it was great to see the likes of Gearoid and James Smith and Stephen Smith coming back from long term injuries, it was fantastic.
“They were content enough with sitting back and they made that clear in the first 20 minutes what way they were approaching it. They were looking to break out at pace.
“But I think the five points we got in the first half, we were full value for those scores as well. They had maybe seven shots in the first half and scored 1-2. They were playing counter-attacking football but I thought we did well not to leave ourselves too exposed when they did get those opportunities to attack.
“There are definitely some things we need to work on all the same.”
Regarding the ‘handbags’ at half-time, Clarke light-heartedly surmised: “I saw the Down manager calling all his players to get in ahead and it left the subs out with us. We were trying to keep our 15 away from everything that was happening. It just widened eyes moreso than anything else, there a couple of those Voldemorts around Ulster, masters of the dark arts if you want to say! (laughs).
“We didn’t get involved in it, it didn’t really cause any hassle for us at half-time.”
Cavan made a bright start to the second half and that put the Mourne men on the back foot.
“Down were never really going to put up a huge amount of scores, they could have got a couple of majors, they were threatening when they were moving the ball through the hands, very slick movements in certain parts of their game but I thought we coped with that well, definitely in the last 15 or 20 minutes when they were pushing for a goal.
“James got up, won the throw-in, drove at them and popped it to Cian and he put it over the bar and it really put them on the back foot from the word go.
“The last 10 or 15 minutes put a bit of gloss on the game, it was probably a tighter game than that I would feel, more like a two or three-point game. The boys that came in, their movement for top class although it was one on one at times, I nearly felt sorry for some of the forwards in the first half because they were dealing with five or six bodies in front of them. But in the second half, they pushed up and gave us opportunities to find our men inside and the boys made hay then.”
Cavan’s power and conditioning has been well remarked upon.
“I think the last number of years we gave ourselves a good base to work off. There’s no such thing as getting two or three months off any more, I was an advocate for that myself. Andre has ripped up that script. Everyone is kind of competing, there is always a competition when it comes to Bronco times, then when you get into games, it’s just competition, competition, competition. It’s a very competitive environment.
“You’re looking at the scoreboards, different data that’s been thrown at you. It feeds into either an ego thing or trying to be the best version of yourself and it’s a good way of benchmarking against other players within the panel as well, to get the best physique or the best skillset that you can. That information is available now that might not have always been there.
“I think Andre has a big part to play in that, the condition that he has us in.”