Cavan National Football League Focus: Time to deliver...

Owen Duffy of Monaghan in action against Padraig Faulkner of Cavan during the 2017 Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 2 game between at St Mary's Park in Castleblayney. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile.
Owen Duffy of Monaghan in action against Padraig Faulkner of Cavan during the 2017 Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 2 game between at St Mary's Park in Castleblayney. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile.

Cavan at the crossroads. A must-win game for the Breffni men? Time to deliver!

Such banner headlines have been stitched into Cavan football’s narrative for the last three years.

Former underage star Pádraig Faulkner made his senior bow for the blues almost exactly two years ago but he hopes and expects Cavan to etch a new, more positive script this year. For Faulkner, the chestnut that Cavan are a young, coming team is redundant.

“The time for us is now,” the Kingscourt Stars ace booms unequivocally. “I’d be expecting the younger lads who’ve come onto the panel this year to step up to the plate. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough and I think we should be talking about at least reaching the (division two) league final this year. We got to it two years ago and I think we can get there again.”

A meritorious 2016 Ulster SFC semi-final draw (3-7 to 0-16) with Tyrone aside, Cavan’s graph has been going downwards in Faulkner’s time with the seniors. The then 22 year old Faulkner made a cameo appearance against the O’Neill county in Clones that day but you can bet the deeds of your house on him wearing either the number three, eight or nine jersey from the start against Donegal on May 13th next and, more immediately, against Clare in Ennis in the NFL Division Two opener next month.

Among the chattering classes in Cavan these days is that Clare will be the bookies’ favourites to garner both points on offer.

“Yeh, I’ve heard that kind of talk myself so that says a lot about the expectations some of our supporters have of us,” Faulkner avers.

“I suppose anyone who bothered to go and see us against Tyrone a few weeks ago couldn’t be blamed for thinking we’re facing a right ‘oul banana skin in Ennis

“To be honest, it was an embarrassing result against Tyrone. Even though they had more or less a full-strength side, it was a real eye-opener and it gave us a lot of food for thought.”

Any excuses?

“No. I think they came to Breffni looking to teach us a lesson after the defeat they suffered against us in the 2017 McKenna Cup game and we just weren’t ever in the game.

“In fairness, we had a good few fellas who weren’t available to us for the McKenna Cup games but I wouldn’t use the excuse of us being a lot more inexperienced than Tyrone for the result. That can’t be used by us as an excuse. We were just terrible that night; missed too many frees and shots from play, messed up at the back. Maybe it was a kick-up-the-backside that we badly needed.”

Faulkner remains one of the great white hopes of Cavan football. He figured on the team that scooped the Ulster U21 title in 2014. He’s a coming footballer, to be sure. But aren’t Cavan a coming team for years now? Few have any doubts about Faulkner’s potential and ability to realise his potential but there’s a creeping fear in the drumlin county that the harvest from four U21 titles on the trot won’t materialise.

All pressure is relative, of course, and, for his part, Faulkner politely reminds us that Gaelic football remains a sport, not an occupation or a matter of life or death. “A lot of people in Cavan are passionate about the county team but they get over-excited about football,”he opines.

He nods in agreement when it’s suggested that maybe Cavan’s fans have put too much stock on the glorious under 21 title triumphs even when its pointed out to him that the county’s Anglo Celt Cup success in 1997 was built on the joy reaped by the Ulster-winning under 21 teams of ’88 and ’96.

“We’ve injuries right now and there’s fellas who haven’t committed so I suppose there’ll be more of the younger fellas promoted onto the starting line-up this year than probably the manager would have intended at the end of last year.

“When I came onto the panel at the start of 2016, I had a lot of experienced players around me and that helped me make the big jump from under 21 to senior but there’s not as many of the older lads playing with us this year which makes it harder for the new lads.”

A stout-hearted, brave and tigerish player, Faulkner bemoans the fact that Cavan won’t be as seasoned a team in 2018 as heretofore by dint of, in the main, withdrawals. Two of his own club mates Joe Dillon and Barry Reilly have voluntarily joined the likes of fellow forwards Niall McDermott, Eugene Keating, David Givney and Seanie Johnston in walking away from the panel.

“It’s disappointing that so many lads have decided not to give the commitment, especially lads who were so helpful to me when I first came on the senior panel.

“It can be annoying when you’re constantly being asked by people why is this fella and why is that fella not part of the panel. They have so much still to give in my view to Cavan but it’s their call and the rest of us just have to plough on, work hard as a squad, and be the best we can be as a group.”

Needless to say, on the back of his three run-ins with Tyrone’s seniors in as many years, Faulkner fingers Tyrone as the team all others will have to beat if they are to land the Anglo Celt Cup this year.

He firmly believes though that Mickey Harte’s men “have come back to the pack and there’s a more level playing field now than for quite a while.”

“The thing is almost everyone on the Cavan panel this year has been on underage teams that have beaten Tyrone. I don’t think there’s any of our players who fear Tyrone or don’t believe that, with a full team, we can’t beat their best fifteen.

“The league is our priority in the short term but we’re definitely looking to do something in this year’s championship. That’s the mission. No one can do it for us though.”


It’s been said before but this time, it has never rang more true. This year is the most important for Cavan senior footballers in more than a decade. Every match will be akin to an Ulster final.

Shares in Cavan Football Inc. have nosedived over the last 12 months with relegation in the 2017 NFL being swiftly followed by defeat to arch rivals Monaghan in their Ulster SFC opener last May. A shocking defeat at home to Tipperary thereafter in the Qualifiers put the tin hat on yet another year of underachievement. To compound things the blues suffered a record 0-7 to 2-22 defeat at home to Tyrone earlier this month in the Dr.McKenna Cup.

On the cusp of a new NFL season, confidence and morale must surely be dodgy in the Cavan camp. Thus, post-Tyrone, a victory in Ennis next month is imperative. The Cavan senior panel is made up of at least a dozen players with either Ulster minor or under 21 medals and manager Mattie McGleenan needs to show faith in their ability to turn things around.

Similarly, Cavan’s finest also need to believe in themselves. Certainly, in the likes of ‘keeper Raymond Galligan, defenders Padraig Faulkner, Martin Reilly and Conor Moynagh, midfielder Gearoid McKiernan and attackers Cian Mackey and Dara McVeety, the blues boasts a spine that is at least as reliable and as talented as any other in the province.

Problem is, a team is only as good as its weaker links and there’s a major concern in Cavan that sufficient talent isn’t around to sufficiently back up the aforementioned spine. Specifically, there are grave concerns over the lack of beef and score-getters in the attack. The county hasn’t got over the departures from the panel of messrs. Keating and Givney and long-time scoregetter-in-chief Seanie Johnston is no longer part of the equation.

Survival in Division Two will be acceptable to the masses.


Anyone who has followed the colleges scene over the last five years will testify to the talent of sterling midfielder Thomas Galligan. The former St. Pat’s Cavan McRory Cup winner and colleges All-Star has been the pivot this month for Southern Gaels’ drive for Ulster U21 Club honours too with his strength-in-the-tackle, powerfully incisive runs and eye for a score drawing comparisons with 1997 Ulster SFC winner Dermot McCabe. On the go now, non-stop, for practically the last 12 months with club and county, Galligan’s robust engine will have been severely tested by next May. With Gearoid McKiernan likely to be used to prop up the attack, it’s crucial that Lacken Celtic ace Galligan is still firing on all cylinders in the white heat of the year.

Ramor United livewire Conor Bradley is one to watch but Cavan fans will have to be patient with him as he finds his feet in his debut year with the flagship team. A former Ulster schools medallist with Virginia College, the now university student was virtually unplayable at club level in 2016 when he helped steer his club to a rare Cavan SFC title. It was no surprise that he was crowned Cavan Senior Footballer of the Year a few months later. He’s only 22 but his speed-off-the-mark, foot skills and goal-poaching prowess ability is luminous.