Five talking points from Cavan's season to date


Two matches into Cavan’s season, how are things shaping up? PAUL FITZPATRICK goes through five key talking points from the campaign to date.

1: There is no lack of effort

This may seem like a pre-requisite – and it is – but the truth is that teams often take the field lacking energy and motivation, for whatever reason. We saw it with Cavan just last year in the Ulster Championship against Armagh and, to a lesser extent, the Tailteann Cup quarter-final against Down.

Raymond Galligan has the team playing with heart. They showed that against Donegal; how often have we seen Cavan teams put up a fight for a while, then when the opposition inevitably up the ante, Cavan wilt?

That didn’t happen in round two, although it still wasn’t enough to get a result on the day. Still, it bodes well at this early stage; they look like a united and motivated group.

2: Missing a ball-winner at midfield

It’s interesting to look back at teamsheets from recent seasons. In 2016, Cavan lost the opening two rounds of the National League before winning five games on the bounce to secure promotion to Division 1, beating Galway in round seven in what was a winner-takes-all clash at Kingspan Breffni.

From the team that played that day, Galligan is now the manager obviously but five of the six defenders (Padraig Faulkner, Killian Clarke, Ciaran Brady, Jason McLoughlin and Killian Brady) remain on board. Up front, there is just one survivor (Dara McVeety) while none of the 11 subs are currently on the panel.

Interestingly, there were at least five players on the squad that day who have played championship football at midfield – Tomás Corr, Michael Argue, Liam Buchanan, Gearoid McKiernan and David Givney – and none are part of the squad any more.

Bryan Magee played midfield in the 2018 Ulster Championship against Donegal. Subsequently, Paul Graham had a spell there while Thomas Galligan won an All-Star for his performances at midfield/full-forward in 2020.

None of these eight players are currently involved. Killian Clarke has done a good job there in recent seasons but in our opinion, his best position is full-back. Ryan Donohoe played well against Kildare but hadn’t the same impact against Donegal, with the hectic schedule of matches (he has been going well with DCU in the Sigerson Cup) maybe catching up with him.

Cavan have always produced excellent midfielders down through the decades; iconic players like Ray Carolan, Stephen King and Dermot McCabe come to mind.

It’s clear, though, that Cavan could do with an extra ball-winner at midfield at the moment, especially when the opposition force them to go long on kick-outs.

Thomas Galligan is currently in Australia.

3: Goalkeeping flux

Prior to this year, the last player to start a competitive match in goals for Cavan other than Ray Galligan was James Farrelly in a qualifier against Tyrone in June, 2018.

With Galligan retired from playing, the path has opened up for another player to establish themselves between the posts. Liam Brady was Galligan’s long-serving understudy and got the nod for the first round against Kildare and turned in an excellent shift.

However, the Ramor man has subsequently picked up an injury which is likely to see him sidelined for a while. Gary O’Rourke stepped in against Donegal and also had a good game.

Reserve on the evening was Fergal O’Rourke. If one of the O’Rourkes was to be unfortunate enough to also get injured, Cavan could find themselves stretched in this key position.

The manager was adamant that he would not be dusting off the gloves and that seems highly unlikely so it will be interesting to observe which of the netminders nails down that jersey, with Brady’s difficulty proving to be Gary O’Rourke’s opportunity.

If and when Liam returns, there should be a battle royale for the number one jersey.

4: Who is the go-to forward?

Every good team has one – a player they look to for scores. Apart from the obvious benefit on the scoreboard, it has the effect of delineating responsibility – the go-to guy, as they say in American sports, knows he is the go-to guy and must step up when needed. From such beginnings are great careers forged.

With Cavan, Gearoid McKiernan – even though he rarely played as an inside forward – was generally the top scorer for 13 years. In the last two seasons, it has been Paddy Lynch.

The Crosserlough man has made 23 starts at senior level in league and championship since fully breaking through at the start of the 2022 season and has nabbed 8-94 (53f, 8m, 1-0 pen). That’s good scoring in anyone’s language and marks him out as a real talent who is dedicated to his craft but Cavan need him to go to the next level, which at just 23 (till next month), he has the potential to do.

Lynch found the going tough from open play last time out but worked hard and nailed his frees.

The pacy Oisin Brady was a big loss against Donegal. He was Cavan’s Player of the Year last year, as selected by the county management, and played very well in particular against Down in the McKenna Cup.

Lynch and Brady, who crucially can both beat defenders, look best-placed to lead the Cavan attack, although there is every possibility that James Smith and/or Dara McVeety will spend time lining out close to goal.

5: Looking up or down?

It was felt at the outset of the season by most supporters that staying in Division 2 and securing Sam Maguire football (although the two are mutually exclusive as it happens) would represent a good Spring’s work for Cavan.

The win over Kildare, though, and the positive showing against Donegal has caused a re-evaluation of goals. The Cork game is big but Louth in round four is massive.

Cavan have Armagh (away), Meath (home) and Fermanagh (home) to come after that and would be hopeful of picking up four points from those three games.

The next two weekends will likely define this league campaign, however, and will decide if Galligan and his men are looking up or down by the time they reach the home stretch of the seven-game group stage.