Galligan: 'That was better than 2020'


Ray Galligan has been involved with Cavan teams in the Ulster Championship for 20 years now, starring as a minor and a senior player at differing ends of the pitch.

Now, he’s not on the pitch at all but rather the sideline – and yet Sunday’s result and the manner of it must be the sweetest he has tasted yet.

Plenty raised eyebrows when the Lacken man, with no managerial experience, took over in the bib marked bainisteoir. Doubts were expressed; Cavan fans, long conditioned to false dawns, never have to dig too deep to find something caustic to say, even when it concerns one of the great players of modern times.

If finishing third in Division 2 came with an asterisk attached, this was a result which proved he is well equipped for the job. The provincial championships may be degraded to some extent around the country but, despite the disappointing attendance on Sunday, Cavan v Monaghan in an Ulster Championship match has always been the real deal.

After an emphatic win in the oldest derby in the sport, Galligan was composed in the post-match interviews and heaped praise on his players, most of whom he was soldiering with on the other side of the whitewash as recently as last year.

All year long, Galligan has assured supporters that Cavan have been working tirelessly in the dress rehearsals and here, they shone on the opening night, even if it wasn’t a packed house.

“It ebbed and flowed there in the last few minutes but, definitely, they stepped up and worked very hard,” he said, returning to the theme.

“Look, when you put in the work they put in, they definitely deserved that result.

“It’s huge. It’s huge excitement. It’s great for the players, it’s great for the supporters to beat Monaghan because they are a top team. They have top players, same as ourselves, but when you see the workate that went on you’d have to be proud of our boys today.”

Monaghan strung together three points on the bounce on the lead-up to half-time but Cavan managed to take the sting out of their bite, reducing the deficit to a manageable two points at the break.

“Yes, they got a small bit of momentum before half-time when it went to 7-4 and we just felt ‘now’s the time to take the sting out of things’ and make the field as big as possible and slow it right down because what we didn’t want was to turn three points into five or six.

“We were really happy with the way possession turned into opportunity and we finished it off with a score.”

The character and quality of the Cavan team was questioned after the losses to Armagh and Fermanagh, which followed a poor showing in the draw against Meath. It was understandable but, in hindsight, Galligan all but dismissed the Fermanagh game.

“We were delighted with the League but we were very disappointed with our performances against Armagh and Fermanagh, you never go out to lose a game but we didn’t really put a lot of emphasis on Fermanagh seeing as it was a nothing game to us.

“We made a number of changes that day and it got a lot of traction that it was a flat performance but it definitely didn’t faze us, we knew we were working hard in the background and we came out today and showed that we’re not a bad team.”

They certainly did that but the bar will be raised again in two weeks’ time when Tyrone come to town. The Red Hands are Cavan’s bogey team and haven’t fallen against the Blues since 1983.

“It’s another huge challenge. Tyrone are a fantastic team, really experienced and they have some fantastic players all over the pitch.

“We know it’s going to be a huge challenge but we’re going to really enjoy today because we have watched Monaghan do fantastic things over the last  number of years – and I’ve no doubt they will again in the All-Ireland series – but we’ll get back down to work on Tuesday night and really look forward to Tyrone because full focus has been on Monaghan and no-one else.”

When Cavan last beat Monaghan in 2020, Galligan was the hero, booming over that 60-metre free to win it at the death. How did this compare? It’s even better, he said.

“I don’t think anything would top that with the way it panned out but having the crowds and all here it’s absolutely better than 2020. It was great for the fans to be able to experience today – that game in 2020 it was joy for the players but for the fans to be able to share this, it was a better feeling.”

Cavan trigger man Paddy Lynch was by far the top scorer on the day, finishing with 1-9.

“Paddy is having a phenomenal season for us this season. He is a marked man every day he goes out and knowing how good he is on the frees it is a great settler for us because there was nothing easy for him today with that wind. He was immense, I think he finished with 1-9. He is just continuing his upward mode in terms of performances.”

Galligan was animated on the sideline throughout, still kicking every ball.

“I judged my timing to get away perfectly when you have a calibre of goalkeeper like Gary and a freetaker like Paddy, I definitely picked a good time to go and I am very proud of the both of them,” he said.

He wasn’t surprised, he said, that the attendance was below the norm.

“Not really. It is not easy on supporters. We have had a long league and the championship comes around really fast, being on TV and with the conditions, Cavan support has always been great and hopefully they will come out in numbers the next day.”

Finally, asked about Gerry Smith’s crucial goal, he explained: “Every score was huge and Gerry was immense today.  A goal in a game like today was a huge score and Gerry worked himself in the ground and you could not ask for more.”