GAA Football

'Holla' backing Cavan to come good against rivals Monaghan

Cavan's Ciaran Brady up against Monaghan's Gavin Doogan in the Division One meeting in Clones this year.
Pic Philip Walsh

LABELS can stick, for good or bad, as Ciaran Brady knows well. Nicknamed ‘Holla’ because his family are “just the ones down a lane” (presumably, a ‘hollow’), he’s determined to help lift Cavan out of their recent rut.

The one-time kings of Ulster, and indeed All-Ireland, the Breffni Blues haven’t been crowned provincial champs for 22 years.

The 24-year-old teacher is aware of the history, but insists it doesn’t add any pressure:

“Most of our players – in ’97, I was only three, so did I really see it? You hear the stories, you know it’s there. The tradition in Cavan, we need to get that tradition back, that’s what we’re aiming to do and why we put the work in.

“The Breffni supporters live and breathe football, love it at all levels. I suppose they’re just yearning for some bit of success to come down the way.

“The last time we won Ulster was in ’97. Mickey [Graham] our manager now was on that panel, so there’s that link – but that link is getting wider and wider.

“It’s about high time now that something changed in that regard.”

The Arva clubman hasn’t been named in the side to host arch-rivals Monaghan tonight, having been ruled out of the last League game against Dublin due to a groin problem, which has limited his involvement in recent weeks.

Arguably ‘his’ place in the team has gone to another C Brady, Conor of Gowna, listed to make his SFC debut, albeit at midfield.

It’s a common surname, especially in the south of the county: “There are multiple Bradys around Arva. We’re just the ones down a lane and it stuck through secondary school and right the way up.

“I turn the shoulder now when I hear ‘Holla’ rather than ‘Ciaran’. Most people who call me it don’t realise what it came from. My dad was referenced with it a bit, but it’s stuck more with me.”

‘Holla’ has been making a name for himself, now in his fifth senior season with Cavan, and he’ll be as eager to win as anyone on the pitch:

“Right down the line, Monaghan is our closest rivalry. There’s only been two or three points over the past 20 years, even though sometimes one team has been a huge favourite or underdog, it swings either way.

“This year will be no different – but I hope we can come out on the right side of that swing.”

Cavan’s hunger for senior success is arguably greater because of how it was whetted at underage level earlier this decade.

‘Holla’ himself won an Ulster Minor Championship in 2011 and then two of the four consecutive provincial U21s that Cavan collected:

“There was a little bit of success there, thankfully, but there hasn’t been much at senior.

“It has proved difficult, the bulk of those teams are now seasoned campaigners. The success hasn’t just followed – we knew it wouldn’t simply because we’d won under-age, we’d have to step it up another level

“We have put in the work but just haven’t got the due reward yet. This is a new championship, hopefully we can make steady progress.”

Brady, though, does not doubt that the talent is there to succeed: “We know we are capable, I know it just hasn’t translated yet.

“We’ve played two Division One campaigns and two in Division Two. We’ve been up there in the mix of the top eight counties, it just hasn’t translated to summer football.

“But we can only make improvements every year and that’s what we do. We’ve been unfortunate in Ulster the last few years that we haven’t made the strides that we’ve wanted to do.”

There seems to have been high turnover of players, but Brady points out: “We still have the same core group of players, they’re on the team-sheet every week, but there have been new lads coming in over the past few years to try to bolster up the squad. It’s about keeping them and developing them to become full senior players.”

Yet the future is now, tonight, for Cavan, and Breffni will be buzzing against top class opposition: “Breffni has been recently done up, it’s a Saturday night game, which is fairly uncommon, so it’ll be a different atmosphere, close.

“But Monaghan will have no issues coming down there, they’ll relish it. We’ll need to be all guns blazing”.

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