Cavan have learned from their seven matches in Division 1 of the National League and believe that the time has come to turn the tables on Monaghan, Raymond Galligan tells Paul Fitzpatrick.
Sometimes, Cavan will win a free-kick in the other half of the field and goalkeeper Raymond Galligan will strain his eyes and do the mental sums, figuring out the angles. A 160-metre round trip can be too far to go to buy a lottery ticket but when the call comes, the place-kicker has got to answer it and take his chance.
Cavan's free-taking was patchy at best during the National League and the captain missed his fair share. That’s just the nature of it. In his own defence, though, he paints a picture.
“When you're looking from the goals, it's hard to see and then when you get the wave up, you think it must be within scoring range. And then when you get up there you see it's 60 yards and think 'Jesus!'” Galligan laughs.
“And then it's a case of 'well, I'm here now' and there's no option to go short...”
Eight days out from the match which will likely define Cavan's season, the Breffni number one is in great form. Monaghan are coming to town – again – and Galligan is genuinely excited. If there's any measure of nerves or unease, the Lacken Celtic clubman hides it well. He knows what is up for grabs but, well, this is where he wants to be.
Monaghan-Cavan games seem to grow more taut with each passing season, the stakes higher, the tension thicker. Off the field, the rivalry is certainly as intense as ever, with supporters on this side of the boundary sick to the teeth – and envious, too – of seeing their old rivals excel.
On it, there's always niggle but, Galligan insists, there's no deep-seated ill-feeling.
“In the league it was more desperation from both of us, that brings that extra edge to survive. Monaghan are a top four team so both teams are coming to this from a different angle and that brings its own pressure. And of course it being a local derby adds to it but I don't think there's any bad blood between the players.
“Do we know each other personally? I suppose it depends where you're from, the likes of Killian Clarke and the Shercock lads might do but for myself and the large majority of the players, we wouldn't have a personal relationship with them. I'd say they wouldn't want to hang around with us just as much as we don't want to hang around with them,” Galligan chuckles.
The Cavan captain's path from poacher to goalkeeper has been well charted. A chance meeting with clubmate and former Cavan manager Terry Hyland brought the erstwhile full-forward back from the inter-county wilderness and he grabbed his opportunity, playing his first competitive inter-county match as a ‘keeper against, inevitably, Monaghan in 2015.
Since then, he has nailed down his place - including his time outfield, he has now played 59 competitive games for Cavan, scoring 1-58.
A social worker by trade, Galligan has grown into a key man on the field and in the dressing-room, where he is a popular figure. Mickey Graham recognised as much and wasted no time in awarding him the captaincy.
The Galligans are a well-known footballing clan – cousins Thomas and James are also on the panel as is another first cousin, of course, Dara McVeety – and it will be a proud day for the family when Ray leads out the team on Saturday. Not that he is getting caught up with it.
“It is a lovely honour but I'm not going to over-analyse it. It is something you kind of dream about – playing for your county for one thing and then captaining your county is the icing on the cake. But I have to just think about my own performance and just lead by example, put in a good shift, try to keep a clean sheet and do the basics right.
“In terms of extra responsibility, there's none really, I just try to engage with the young players and make sure they're settled in. It is a different environment than club football and it's understanding that everyone has a life outside this. It's being that link with the players and the management and being there for the players.
“It's just trying to lead by example, on and off the field and putting in the hours. I was fortunate enough to play with lots of great footballers in the last couple of years and it's trying to learn from them.”
While Cavan were ultimately relegated from Division 1 of the league, Galligan feels their performances were positive. Cavan are in a good place, he insists, with very few injury concerns in comparison to other seasons.
“Every year you are thinking you're going to win. Deep down you would have had doubts in previous years when you have niggling injuries, like last year against Donegal we were missing two of our best players, Dara and Martin.
“This year, having played in Division 1 and put in good performances – even though we didn't stay in the division – it has given us great belief that we are close. I think with the work we've done over the last few weeks, definitely, I'm very confident that we can cause an upset.
“The game is at home, there will be a good Cavan support, I really do believe that this is a great opportunity now for us.
“Please God we will be getting on top throughout the game and having that extra bit of support can help that, the 16th man as they call it. I noticed in the league this year against the likes of Roscommon and Kerry, once we were putting in a good performance the crowd really got behind us.
“I think it is definitely an advantage to be at home. Players, especially forwards, should be very familiar with Breffni Park and have played there numerous times for club and county. It should help your eye for shooting and for kick-outs as well.”
As a free-taking number one, Galligan will be partaking in both of those. In a fixture where the margins are so fine, place-kicking will be crucial again and he feels Cavan have brushed up on their approach to that aspect of the game.
“I'm lucky enough, I always get the nice handy ones!” he laughs.
“Look, you're coming out to take the 45-plus frees. I did research on the stats on other keepers. Even with [Niall] Morgan, I think he has a ratio of one in three in the league but when you're winning games, that's not even noticed.
“It's probably communication and understanding where you are on the pitch, is it realistic to go for it or is it better to go short? Again, it's learning. Being in Division 1, we really got nailed on scoring percentages because we weren't so efficient compared to other teams.
“That's something we have worked on, knowing the distance that's realistic both for myself and the inside free-takers.”
The Cavan-Monaghan derby is the oldest in the game and has produced more draws than any other. It is bitterly-contested, famously so, but Monaghan have had the edge, winning the last three encounters, each time by one kick of the ball.
Cavan are prepared for war but, says Galligan, there's always a chance that peace will break out. The variables are endless and nobody knows what sort of pattern will stitch itself to proceedings until the ball is thrown in.
Cavan, says their captain, must be ready for all eventualities and not just a bitter, close arm wrestle.
“Having been involved in the last few years against Monaghan, we kind of make it into a battle. As much as it's a local derby, we nearly look too much into it being a battle. I do believe this year we have the players to win the game.
“We have been on the wrong side of the result in the last number of years but, similar to Roscommon, the tide is going to turn. When? We believe it's going to be this year.”