Cavan aiming to avoid Galway pitfalls
Four-in-a-row Ulster U-21 champions up against Dublin as they seek an All-Ireland final place
Cavan’s Dara McVesty is tackled during the Ulster U-21 final victory over Donegal when the county completed a four-in-a-row. photograph: russell pritchard/inpho
Cavan, for all their provincial success at under-21 level, could well go the way of Gaelic football’s underage dodo.
Galway’s very own Bermuda Triangle, from under-21 to the senior ranks, is well documented. Plenty of players funnel through but not with the expected confidence or levels of performances hinted at in the age grade ranks.
Cavan, surely, even in the ultra-competitive Ulster senior championship are expected to equip themselves with a team of high repute in the coming seasons.
“You would hope that but there’s no guarantee,” said manager Peter Reilly, who has succeeded Terry Hyland. “Galway have won a number of All-Irelands at under-21 in the last ten years [four since 2002] and haven’t really gone that well.”
Four Ulster titles in succession, in theory, demands a leap to the higher plain, even considering the barrier that will be erected by Dessie Farrell’s Dublin tomorrow in Portlaoise.
“The other teams came up short and that was it,” continued Reilly matter-of-factly. “It’s been small enough margins. Two years ago Roscommon bet us in Longford. Last year we didn’t perform for 50 minutes and it cost us the game, but it was only by a point. Small margins.”
“There isn’t a lot between all these teams – Cork, Roscommon, Dublin, Cavan. You have to be lucky enough to get a performance on the day and be ahead at the end.”
That sounds almost defeatist but the point is supported by Cork dual player Eoin Cadogan, whose brother Alan lines out against Roscommon, another county with plentiful raw material, in the other semi-final at O’Moore Park.
“U-21 is a very peculiar grade,” said Cadogan. “In the sense they are younger than most senior guys so thing mightn’t always go to plan on the day.
“I always remember 2005 I think we were going particularly well going into an All-Ireland semi-final against Galway. Before I blinked Michael Meehan and Seán Armstrong had eight points on the board and we had one. I was going, ‘what’s after happening?’
“There is that element of things might not go to plan for guys and how they would react. What I would be confident of is that there are a lot of experienced guys in Cork’s 21s squad who have been brought into the senior squad where there is high expectations of them, of taking the right option and being able to cope with that kind of pressure.
“Roscommon have had good success at underage, they are coming into that with no fear. People are probably bigging up Cork but I know from talking to Alan and the players that they have their feet firmly on the ground.”
Cavan’s defensive set-up will have to stymie the pace of already established Dublin wing back Jack McCaffrey. If McCaffrey breaks the Ulster champions’ Maginot Line on the counterattack then Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello will bring Dublin to the cusp of a third U-21 All-Ireland since 2010.
There’s been genuine progress with Jim Gavin seamlessly transferring both players and success onto the main stage. In stark contrast to Galway.
Cork have also gathered recent U-21 All-Ireland titles in 2007 and 2009 with Alan Cadogan, much like the older brother, torn by his ability to juggle football and hurling.
“He has been brought into the hurling squad and he is playing better football at the moment,” laughed Eoin. “But he knows his priority is U-21 and he is not really looking past that.
“At that age you got to be realistic as well, your own code means the most to you and whatever happens after that happens. Between U-21 with the club, they played Wednesday against Tipp and he was out again Saturday for the city final against Nemo, in which they were beaten after extra-time, back out again last night after a bit of rest and hopefully fresh for Saturday.
“Things seem to be going well but I’d be sure to remind him when you are on a crest of a wave you guys and every supporter out there would be very quick to bring you back down when you get the curly finger after 25 minutes if things aren’t going to plan.
“He has been in an environment from a very young age, when I was brought into senior squads I was lucky enough to be exposed to guys who had an extremely professional approach – the likes of John Gardiner, Seán Óg, Donal Óg in hurling – and he was always brought along to those extra sessions. Any ball alley session Alan was there, and he was taking part in it. He is a bit more straight -laced than I am and a bit more screwed on for his age but he has been in that type of environment and I think that will serve him well going forward.”