Sport

Cavan braced for derby day battle against Longford at Kingspan Breffni

Cavan's Mickey Graham at the start of the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi Final between Cavan and Donegal on 05-08-2022 at St Tiernachs Park Clones. Pic Philip Walsh
Cavan's Mickey Graham at the start of the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi Final between Cavan and Donegal on 05-08-2022 at St Tiernachs Park Clones. Pic Philip Walsh Cavan's Mickey Graham at the start of the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi Final between Cavan and Donegal on 05-08-2022 at St Tiernachs Park Clones. Pic Philip Walsh

The form book usually flies out the window when it comes to local derbies and Cavan manager Mickey Graham is bracing his Breffni men for a huge challenge this Sunday. Cavan host Longford in round three of the National League and the two sides are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to form.

Graham’s unbeaten side saw off Westmeath and Tipperary in the opening rounds to sit at the top of Division Three with two wins from two while Longford are anchored to the bottom of the table with zero points following defeats to Fermanagh and Westmeath.

Graham, who spent a number of years managing Longford club Mullinalaghta and guided them to a Leinster final in 2018 before taking the Cavan job, is aware of the threat posed by their near neighbours.

“We’d be happy with the start we got,” said Graham. “The first game away to Westmeath was always going to be a tough game and to come out of Mullingar with two points was a great result.

“With Tipperary coming to Kingspan Breffni the following week, over the last number of years we’ve had a couple of tough battles with them, so we were just delighted to come out the right side of the result.

“Going into the break, the break probably came at a bad time, we were probably just starting to build momentum, but it gave an opportunity for a few lads to tidy up a few knocks and try to reset now and look forward to a tough game against Longford, a local derby on Sunday.

“Both teams would be very familiar with each other, we would have played each other an awful lot over the years in challenge matches because they’re so close.

“The players would be very familiar with each other too so it’s going to be a tough game, I’m expecting it to be a lot tighter than some people might think. Over the last couple of years there’s been very little between us when we have met.”

Cavan remain without a number of key men, but Graham is hoping to see some experienced faces return over the next few weeks. “Paddy (Lynch) is just returning to full fitness at the moment, he has come on the last two games.

“We still have numerous lads that are out with injuries at the moment, but they’re on the way back now. We’d be hoping to see a few of them returning over the next few weeks with the games coming think and fast.

“Gearóid (McKiernan) and the likes of James Smith, Conor Brady, Jason McLaughlin, Gerry Smith, those lads are all experienced and have been around a long time, so you’d be hoping that over the next couple of weeks we’ll be seeing one or two of those returning to action.”

The next few games before the second break in the league will go a long way in defining Cavan’s season according to their boss. “Usually after round three or four the league starts to take a wee bit of shape, you’re either going to be in the fight for promotion or you’re going to be fighting relegation.

“After three or four games the league does start to take a pattern and you can see the teams that are going to be fighting to go up to Division Two and the teams that are going to be fighting to stay in the division. I’d say the next few games will tell a story of where teams stand and the lie of the land.”