Nothing is impossible - but Cavan are up against it in survival hunt admits boss Mickey Graham
MICKEY Graham notes that "nothing is impossible" and, given his recent record, you're slow to disagree - but even the man who inspired the miracle of Mullinalaghta knows Cavan are up against it.
To avoid relegation to Division Two of the National Football League this Sunday, they need the following set of results to occur; themselves beating Dublin, Monaghan losing to Mayo and Roscommon drawing with Kerry.
To put that in some context, you will get odds of 107/1 at a bookmakers on those results happening.
It's no great surprise then that Graham's mood is more one of grudging acceptance of their situation and tentative hope, than optimism that they might actually escape the drop.
"Look, we'll not paper over it, it's hugely disappointing," the Cavan manager said of their rock bottom status in Division One, "because I feel that while results haven't gone our way; we were learning but we just didn't learn as quickly as I'd hoped.
"But definitely the lads have come in and they've seen a big step up in intensity and you'll only get better from performing in that environment.
"So it's a harsh lesson. In a lot of the games, we had a realistic chance of getting something out of them but we didn't and that comes down to the experience end of things.
"That's something we need to learn very quickly because the one thing we did learn is that you get punished for every mistake you make at this level."
Graham, a one-time inside forward for Cavan, isn't entirely throwing in the towel and acknowledged that if Mullinalaghta, a tiny outpost in Longford pressed up against the Cavan border, can beat Kilmacud Crokes as they did in December's Leinster final, then Cavan can at least do their part this Sunday by beating Dublin.
"I suppose it just shows what can be done, nothing is impossible," he said, referencing the Mullinalaghta tale. "If you have the right bunch of players and you have commitment and you have everybody pulling in the one direction - you need luck along the way too - then all those things combined can help you.
"And when you get to a one-off game, it's all on the day and about the frame of mind you are in and the frame of mind of the opposition."
It remains to be seen what frame of mind Dublin arrive at Kingspan Breffni in after losing to Tyrone last weekend, their third loss from six outings. It's the first time Dublin have lost three League games under Jim Gavin and while some pundits have questioned them, Graham isn't about to.
"They are probably still in the middle of their pre-season at the moment," he argued. "Whereas other teams have been working away since November, they probably only started back in mid-January and then they have a few injuries as well. Tyrone are probably a few weeks further down the road than Dublin. While it was a great result for Tyrone, I wouldn't read too much into it from a Dublin perspective because they will be a different animal in the summer and if anyone thinks any different then they are going to be proven wrong I'd presume."
If Cavan and Roscommon - currently in the relegation positions - do go down on Sunday, it will mean that eight of the 22 counties that have been promoted from Division 2 since the league was restructured for 2008 have gone straight back down. Another seven counties have been relegated in just their second season in the top flight and certain counties - Laois, Derry and Westmeath - have ended up slipping all the way down to Division Four.
It raises the question, would teams aspiring to play in the top flight be better off staying in Division 2 and avoiding the mental hardship of a likely relegation?
"You'd like to think you could have got results early on in the league and if you'd stayed up then you'd definitely be better prepared then going into the Championship," Graham said.
"But then talking to other managers in Division Two, they'd tell you it's very competitive and maybe it is an opportunity to get other players more game time, younger lads because it's not as intense as Division 1 or as competitive as regards the tighter games.
"Looking at Division Two, there are four or five teams that could be playing Division 1 football easily so both divisions really are competitive."
Graham was speaking at Croke Park at the launch of Cavan's 'Win the Dream in Dublin 15' fundraiser.
It is an opportunity to win a house in Dublin 15 worth EUR375,000 with tickets costing EUR100. All money raised will go towards constructing the Cavan GAA Polo Grounds Centre of Excellence next to Kingspan Breffni, a training facility with three floodlit pitches and a high performance gym. Cavan need to raise EUR2.5m in total to develop the 24-acre site. Visit www.winindublin15.ie