Cavan must be at their best to live with Dublin says Mattie McGleenan
BEATING Tyrone by four in the first game of the Dr McKenna Cup proved Cavan can mix it with the big boys, but boss Mattie McGleenan says every man in royal blue must be on top form if they are to even be “competitive” in their league opener against Dublin.
Tyrone and Cavan were both promoted to the top flight last year, but it is Cavan who are seen as contenders to go straight back down to Division Two.
McGleenan, who took over from Terry Hyland last October, has heard the talk.
A man of boundless positivity, he has embraced the challenge and it doesn't come any bigger than welcoming the All-Ireland champions to Kingspan Breffni Park on February 5.
“We had probably as close to our first team out against Tyrone,” said the Eglish clubman, who revealed that goalkeeper Raymond Galligan was back in training and could return against the Dubs.
“In the Donegal and Jordanstown games, other players got their chance to impress, so from that end of things the McKenna Cup was fabulous for us in terms of seeing who could be in your starting 15 and, more importantly, the five or six impact subs who could come in.
“It will take them all to make Dublin even a competitive game. Dublin haven't lost a National League game in two years, so if you can't motivate yourself to play against Dublin, I don't know why you'd be in the game.
“Any day you play Dublin they will challenge you to bring out the best in yourself and we'll accept that challenge of trying to bring our best game to the field and see how it goes.”
In terms of motivation, getting a crack at Jim Gavin's back-to-back Sam Maguire winners on their own patch will be something special.
McGleenan continued: “Breffni Park will be bouncing that night, Cavan town will be alive with people coming to that game.
“You've Dublin coming out of the city, they'll bring a crowd with them too I'm sure, it's a great opener for Cavan.
“If you'd said to me six months ago walking out of the All-Ireland final that I'd be managing a team against Dublin in six months time, I'd have said you were mad so this will be a fabulous occasion.”
The Breffnimen will be without some big names for their 2017 campaign after full-forward David Givney, Cian Mackey, Eugene Keating and Feargal Flanagan opted off the panel due to work commitments.
London-based Givney signalled that, should his circumstances change, he would love to contribute to the Cavan cause during the summer and McGleenan insists the door will remain open for their exiled stars.
“Absolutely,” said McGleenan.
“Stephen O'Neill came into the All-Ireland final in 2008 having been out for the whole year. If those guys want to play and they have themselves in great shape, then definitely, we want the best for Cavan.
“We want to create the right culture, the right environment where every player plays to his potential and certainly if those men could come in and help us be successful and push on, then the door would never closed.”
For now though, the Breffni County's focus is on making a major statement by upsetting the bookies' odds and retaining their Division One status.
“It's the best place to play football,” added the Cavan boss.
“Mickey Harte mentioned some time ago that All-Ireland champions are always in Division One so we get to play last year's All-Ireland winners, and I assume at some point we will play this year's All-Ireland winners.
“We're going to be a better team because of what we learn from playing these teams.”