GAA Football

Cavan stalwart Killian Clarke hoping for repeat of 2017 Mayo upset

Killian Clarke (left) is taking the positives from Cavan's defeat to Kerry at Kingspan Breffni Park on Sunday. Picture by Sportsfile
Neil Loughran

Allianz National Football League

THEY managed it two years ago against the odds, and Killian Clarke is hoping Cavan can pull off another upset to keep their Division One survival hopes alive when they face Mayo on Saturday night.

Michael Graham’s Breffnimen have lost their first two National League games, narrow defeats to Galway and then Kerry on Sunday, and face an uphill battle to avoid the drop with five games remaining.

Cavan found themselves in a similar predicament during their last stint in the top flight back in 2017, and pulled off a shock in Castlebar with a 1-14 to 0-15 victory over the hosts.

And while plenty has changed since then - not least the management teams in both counties, with James Horan since returning to the Mayo hot seat - Clarke insists that experience can serve as inspiration when they return to MacHale Park this weekend.

“We went down to Mayo before and a lot of people wrote us off but we got a result,” said the versatile Shercock man, who kept star Kerry forward Paul Geaney quiet for most of the afternoon.

“Mayo – well, the old Mayo - wanted to play that expansive football, 15 on 15, and we were kind of going the opposite way where we’d set up defensively.

“We’re getting a bit of a hybrid now between the two and we’re trying to work on the whole thing.”

And Clarke feels Cavan are not far off the level of the big boys occupying the spots around the top of Division One.

Mayo served notice of their potential with a nine-point trouncing of Tyrone in Omagh on Sunday, while in the first half Cavan were the better side against a fancied Kingdom side.

A combination of injuries to key men Dara McVeety and Ciaran Brady, and a much improved Kerry performance, saw the Breffnimen pegged back after the break.

But Clarke walked out of Kingspan Breffni Park on Sunday with plenty of hope that Cavan were headed in the right direction.

He said: “The first 40 minutes was very promising – if you could put that together for 70 minutes you’d definitely be up around that top four at the end of the year. It’s just that bit of efficiency, getting those numbers up.

“We’re playing against this type of system a long time now and we know how to break it down. Kerry are probably only new to the system with the number of players dropping off, so we thought we could exploit that space, get runners going through the middle.

“It was working for us in the first half because we were getting those long kick-outs and we could get in at them before they got set up. But in the second half we struggled with the kick-outs, especially on our own.

“I think we had 15 kick-outs in the second half, they had four so that shows you where all the action was in the second half. It’s definitely disappointing, we played good football in the first half, we moved the ball well so there’s positives to take from it too.”

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