GAA Football

Cian Mackey: Return to the Cavan fold 'wasn't clear cut'

Cavan forward Cian Mackey. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

THERE were a “few phone calls and a few missed calls” from Mattie McGleenan over the winter but standing in the bowels of Croke Park, even in defeat, Cian Mackey was glad he eventually picked up.

The dark months passed were like the dark months that went last year, when he headed to England for a few months for work, and to see if the fire would relight itself.

It did but when it came the end of their championship campaign last summer, and his club Castlerahan ended up in their third straight Cavan SFC final, another extended break was required.

But by mid-December he had thrown his weight back in and was gradually reintroduced throughout the League, coming off the bench to great effect against Down and Roscommon.

He started and kicked a crucial equaliser against Tipperary and was then at the heart of so much of their good work in Croker on Sunday, including creating the turnovers for two of their three first half goals.

They didn’t manage to bring the silverware home after a record-breaking final in which Cavan scored 4-12 but still lost out to a brilliant Roscommon attack that hit 4-16, but it represented a rare Croke Park outing that Mackey has grown to appreciate.

“It [coming back] definitely wasn’t clear cut, it was far from it. If I hadn’t come back and the boys were here playing in Croker without me, I would have been delighted for them but gutted at the same time.

“It was a good decision to come back in. You miss it when you’re not playing. We’ll keep playing and hopefully have another few big days in Croke Park.

“There were a few phone calls and a few missed phone calls [from McGleenan]. It was a good call to go back in. I sat down and had a chat with a few lads and made the call, and so far this year it’s turned out to be a good one.”

Their presence in the Division Two final was something of a surprise for some, but not as much as their involvement in such a high-scoring encounter.

Yet despite the narrative that they are only just opening up now, they had actually scored more in winning promotion two years ago under Terry Hyland (8-102) than in this year’s regular league campaign (7-101).

But there is no denying that they had been an ultra-defensive outfit before that, which led to criticisms of their style that are only just starting to clear.

Asked if the current system is more enjoyable to play in, Mackey said: “It is yeah, but when you’re starting off from Division Three you have to get a gameplan together.

“We got a gameplan and it got us up to Division One, so we can’t knock the way we played too much because it did get us there.

“As the game’s evolved, we’ve evolved with it and we’re starting to play more attacking football now. We just need to get the balance of the two. If we manage that, we’ll be doing a lot better.

“You have to get the balance of the defensive side of your game and the attacking side of your game, and today both teams didn’t really look at defence too much by the looks of the scoreline. It was just gung-ho.

“It’s good for the neutral to watch but not good for us for a result. At the start of the league we weren’t given much hope. We were after getting a clipping from Tyrone and nobody gave us a hope, but we banded it all together and got back on track and gained promotion.

“It would have been great to finish with a bit of silverware but that’s sport, that’s the way it is. You can only have one winner. We’ll knuckle down for the next couple of weeks and head on to Ballybofey.”

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