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Cavan boss Mickey Graham staying grounded ahead of Tyrone clash

STANDFIRST

Mickey Graham’s Cavan side will face Tyrone in Saturday’s Dr McKenna Cup semi-final after winning their section by beating Antrim and Armagh Picture Seamus Loughran
Mickey Graham’s Cavan side will face Tyrone in Saturday’s Dr McKenna Cup semi-final after winning their section by beating Antrim and Armagh Picture Seamus Loughran Mickey Graham’s Cavan side will face Tyrone in Saturday’s Dr McKenna Cup semi-final after winning their section by beating Antrim and Armagh Picture Seamus Loughran

CAVAN qualified for their first McKenna Cup semi-final since 2016 with a five-point win over Armagh on Wednesday evening, although Breffni boss Mickey Graham insists his side won’t be getting too carried away.

They’ll host Tyrone tomorrow with the chance of reaching the decider for the first time in eight years, but Graham is more concerned about getting more game-time for his players.

“It’s nice to get another competitive game,” said Graham, now in his fifth year in charge.

“Obviously, we’ve a lot of new lads that have come into the squad and the more exposure we can give them to competitive football the better for them and the more they’ll learn.

“Obviously Armagh had a lot of new players out as well and that’s what the competition is about, experimenting and exposing players to this level of competition. We were happy to get a result but also happy that we got so many players on to make their debuts and taste McKenna Cup action.

“We’ve made probably eight, nine, ten debutants in the last two games which is very pleasing because we have a lot of injuries and illness at the minute in the camp.

“The conditions tonight were difficult for both teams, and we probably just coped with them a wee bit better. In fairness to Armagh, they made a lot of changes at half-time so we’ll not read too much into it or get carried away, it’s only January.”

Cavan have been minus a number of regulars in recent weeks, but Graham is delighted to have Dara McVeety, Wednesday’s man-of-the-match, back in the fold.

A recognised forward, McVeety excelled at centre half-back on Wednesday, as he did in last Sunday's win over Antrim.

“Padraig (Faulkner) got illness on Tuesday, Gearóid (McKiernan), Paddy Lynch, James Smith, Jason McLoughlin, Conor Brady (are all injured), we have a lot of lads out.

“It’s up to them now to force their way back in because in fairness to the other lads that played, you couldn’t fault their effort and endeavour and it’s good to have competition like that in the squad.

“Dara was obviously away for a couple of years but it’s great to have him back in the mix. He’s still finding his feet and we’d be hoping he’ll only get better as the games keep coming.

“You could play Dara anywhere he’s so versatile, at one stage he played full-forward there tonight. Dara would tell you he’d play any place on the field, he’s just delighted to get the Cavan jersey back on his back.”

All eyes will soon turn towards the League and Cavan are involved in a fiercely competitive Division Three, kicking off their campaign away to Westmeath in a repeat of last year’s Tailteann Cup final.

“You look at Fermanagh, Down, Antrim, ourselves, Westmeath, Offaly, Tipperary, Longford, there’s lots of quality in that Division Three and I think a lot of teams will take points from each other because I think a lot of the teams are on the same level.

“We’re away to Westmeath in the first game so that’s going to be a real tough ask to go down to Mullingar, but we just want to try to keep improving and keep working on our own game and try and get a few bodies back by then.

“Over the last number of years, we’ve played them three or four times a year in challenge matches because they’re right beside us so we’re very familiar with each other. Both teams have great respect for each other, they were the better team on the day in the Tailteann Cup final and fair play to them.”