Thomas Galligan and Cavan raring to meet Dublin in Croke Park

‘If you make it there, you’ll make it anywhere’ says new Ulster champion of HQ

“If you make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”

He didn't quite sing it, and Cavan footballer Thomas Galligan isn't falling for the old sorry tune about playing All-Ireland champions Dublin in Croke Park either, with the perceived advantages given over to what is essentially Dublin's home venue.

Speaking two days after their Ulster final win over headline acts Donegal, delivering Cavan's first provincial title since 1997, Galligan admitted the matter hadn't even been addressed yet by either the players or their manager Mickey Graham.

Cavan will regroup for the first time on Tuesday evening ahead of the Dublin semi-final showdown on Saturday week, Galligan still nursing two stitches over his right eye as an added souvenir of Sunday’s landmark win, and in the meantime he suggested none of the team would be calling on the GAA to seek a more neutral venue.

However Galligan did drop the hint that Dublin might be a less daunting prospect outside of GAA headquarters.

“I’d just expect it to be in Croke Park because it’s an All-Ireland semi-final,” Galligan says. “It would probably help us if it was out of Croker. Ah, it’s not up to us to make a call on that, the GAA will make a call on that. We’ll play wherever. At this stage we were meant to be long beat, so we’ll go out and give them a go.

“Ah look, they’re well used to playing there but I think everyone loves to play and wants to play in Croker. I don’t think anyone would be disappointed if we had to play it in Croker because growing up that’s exactly where you want to play. You want to be playing the best team in the country in Croker. If you make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”

Given Dublin’s latest demolition run through Leinster, Galligan makes no secret of the daunting task of facing a team now two wins away from a sixth successive All-Ireland.

“I suppose it’s a little bit daunting but it’s also exciting. You’re playing the best team in the country and you’ll really know where you’re at when you play them.

“There might be a bit of ‘daunt’ or whatever, but more people will be excited to get playing them. If you said at the start of the year that Cavan would be in an All-Ireland semi-final you would have gotten good odds. I think we’ll enjoy it more so than be afraid of it.”

Cavan will also relish being underdogs, something which Galligan admits spurred the team immensely in their win over Donegal on Sunday.

“You were listening to it all week about how you hadn’t a chance. And you hadn’t a chance against Down, hadn’t a chance against Monaghan. People say it doesn’t matter, but that really gets on a lad’s shoulder. Yeah, everyone will use their own way to motivate themselves, but for me that was a big enough thing because I’m just sick of people putting Cavan down, to be honest. I think a lot of people would have used it to motivate themselves.

“And I don’t think I’ve taken it fully in yet, that we won, because no one expected us to win, and everyone was saying all week we’re just a warm-up game to play Dublin, they’ll sort a few things out. And be ready to play Dublin. So it’s still all a bit surreal at the minute.

“Even not having the fans, or going to pub to meet people, you can’t do that, get the pat on the back like you normally would, but no one can take it away from us.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics