GAA Football

'We're not ready for the Super 8s just yet' - Cavan's Cian Mackey

Tyrone's Ronan McNamee and Cavan's Cian Mackey in action during Saturday's All-Ireland Qualifier in Clones Picture by Philip Walsh.

CIAN Mackey says the Cavan footballers are not ready for the Super 8s after suffering a heavy defeat to Tyrone in the last round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers on Saturday night.

This year’s Ulster finalists lost by 16 points to the rampant Red Hands, managing just three points from open play.

The Breffni men resembled a team that didn’t quite come to terms with their Ulster final defeat to Donegal a couple of weeks earlier and weren’t mentally ready for Tyrone’s intensity.

In the immediate aftermath of such a morale-sapping loss, Breffni boss Mickey Graham said it felt like no progress was made in 2019.

Mackey echoed the manager’s sentiments.

“After that defeat it doesn't feel like any progress has been made,” said the Castlerahan clubman.

“That was a heavy defeat. Usually we show a lot more character than that but credit to Tyrone, they came out, their gameplan was correct and they got a foothold in the game early, and we had no answer for them.”

Mackey was one of the undoubted stars of this year’s provincial series but he was forced to the edges of Saturday’s Round Three Qualifier by some brilliant Tyrone defending.

"There's a lot learned this year,” insisted Mackey. “It was our first Ulster final in 18 years, but we have to start kicking on and making Super 8s and stuff like that to really make an impact in the Championship. Anyone can make a provincial final in any given year so next year will probably tell a tale as to where this team is going.”

Cavan dropped out of Division One in the spring, winning just one game out of seven, and will regroup in Division Two next season.

Last year, Roscommon reached the Super 8s but the standard was too high for Kevin McStay’s team to survive.

Had Cavan reached the last eight of the All-Ireland series, Mickey Graham’s side almost certainly would have suffered the same fate.

“If we want to be in the Super 8s we need to be competing against the likes of Tyrone,” said the 33-year-old playmaker.

“Say we got a lesser draw in the Qualifiers and come up against a lesser team than Tyrone and ended up playing Dublin and Tyrone in the Super 8s and you're not ready for it, then you'd be really shown up.

"Maybe at the minute we are just not ready for the Super 8s, but Mickey [Graham], Dermot [McCabe] and Martin Corry have made huge strides with this team. We've come on leaps and bounds. I'd say where we were over the last couple of years to where we are now we're further on, and that's only in six months.

“We'll go back to our clubs, do our gym sessions over the winter and see where we are next year.”

Asked if it was Tyrone's superior fitness and conditioning that was the key difference between the sides, Mackey replied: “Quite possibly, but if you don't give the ball away their athleticism is no good to them. We were giving the ball away and they were exploiting us with their pace and their power. We've little things to learn and we will learn from them. We've a great backroom team to look at all the things that have gone wrong, they'll let us know and it's up to us to rectify it in six or eight months.”

“In many ways, it has been a great year. We can't complain about anything within the set-up; it has been top class, the lads are top class. When you're playing with mates and you get on very well with the management it's very easy to come to training. People say it's like a family. We get on like a family. We hit each other at training too. They are a great bunch of lads, we have a great management team and it's a good place to be.”

On his own inter-county future, the veteran attacker said: “We'll see. I'll have a conversation with Mickey. Once I'm fit to play, I'll play with Cavan but we'll see how it goes over the next couple of months.”

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