GAA Football

Cavan newcomer Gerry Smith intends to build on his impressive first start

Gerry Smith, pictured during his Cavan U21 days, hit 1-2 against Tyrone at Kingspan Breffni Park last Sunday
Andy Watters

BEING named man of the match against Tyrone was a dream start to Gerry Smith’s Cavan career.

Last Sunday’s Dr McKenna Cup opener was Smith’s first start at senior level. He had featured in all of five of the Breffni men’s Championship games in 2016 - a point against Derry in the Qualifiers - and he staked an early claim for a regular place in the first 15 with an eye-catching performance in Cavan’s five-point win.

The Lavey youngster bagged 1-2 from play, including the crucial first-half goal which came after he flicked Paul O’Connor’s defence-splitting pass past Niall Morgan. In the second-half, he added the score of the game with a point off his right foot while on the run and Cavan never looked back.

“It was my first McKenna Cup game - I missed it and the league last year through injury, but I got a bit of time in the Championship just coming on as a sub. That was my first start,” he said.

“I can’t really complain with how it went,” he added with a laugh.

“It was a good performance, so I’m happy today anyway.”

New Cavan manager Mattie McGleenan is without Breffni stalwarts like Cian Mackey, Eugene Keating and David Givney this season and lost last year’s skipper McKiernan to injury in pre-season. With Division One football starting with the visit of league and All-Ireland champions Dublin in early February, McGleenan was delighted with how Smith and several other rookies performed last Sunday.

“Gerry was outstanding, he had an absolutely fabulous game,” he said.

“If Dara McVeety or Conor Moynagh or Gearoid McKiernan want that jersey they’re going to have to take it off Gerry, but I think he wants to hold onto it.

“We’re trying to get players to work the skills of the game, take the opportunities they get and I want to get as many men scoring as possible. Gerry movement, his run for the goal was class and he took the goal really well.

“A goal was always going to be a big play. Tyrone came close to getting one two or three times but defensively Padraig Faulkner, Fergal Reilly and ‘Gunner’ Brady were outstanding. We asked the players to put their body in the way and, even though Tyrone were fantastic in terms of their movement, our last line of defence was class.”

Last Sunday’s win ended a 25-game winning streak for Tyrone and a 17-year losing streak against the Red Hands for Cavan: “I’m only a young fella so I’m not really into history,” joked McGleenan.

“It’s the first game of the year. It’s my first time at this level and I’m delighted to get a result.”

Meanwhile, goalscorer Smith is looking forward to proving that his excellent display last Sunday was no flash in the pan when Cavan take on Donegal this weekend.

“We’re missing boys, but we still have a good strong bunch out on the field,” he said.

“The boys that came on all did well and got scores when we needed to push on. We got a performance and we got a win but we’ll not read too much into it. It’s only the first week in January.

“It’s good to get a win over Tyrone but it’s only two points on the board - we have to go out in the next game and try and get another two points and see where that takes us. We have Donegal next which will be another tough battle.

“But we’re all enjoying it. The boys out there repaid the faith that Mattie put in us and we want to keep it going.”

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