GAA Football

Dog on pitch at Cavan game fuels internet conspiracies

The dog in question nips at the heels of Cavan's Niall Murray and Monaghan's Kieran Hughes during their Ulster SFC quarter-final. Mickey Graham sr (right) pictured with the dog after Cavan - managed by his son, Mickey jr - had defeated Monaghan
Neil Loughran

THE conspiracy theories began to fly about almost as soon as the elusive pooch had been apprehended. Then, within minutes of Cavan’s momentous Ulster derby defeat of Monaghan, a picture dropped into WhatsApp groups across the Breffni County.

There stood a beaming Mickey Graham sr, the captured canine under his arm, after a stewarding shift while somewhere out of shot his son, the Cavan manager, was celebrating a job well done.

The dog had played no small part too, taking to the field at Kingspan Breffni towards the end of the first half, just as the Farneymen were gathering some momentum following a sluggish start.

Initially dismissed as a chance occurrence, alternative theories would present themselves with each day that passed.

That dog was seen at Breffni before, some reckoned. Something similar had happened at a crucial stage of a game when Graham jr was in charge of Longford champions Mullinalaghta a few years back.

The talk went into overdrive.

“There was a picture going round with my father carrying the dog off the field after the Monaghan game…” says Graham with a smile before the pause breaks.

“We have a dog like it! I got a good laugh out of that one alright. It happened before, it happened me over in Longford you see, in Pearse Park one time… a very similar looking dog.

“We were trying to get a black cat to run out the next day maybe, bring us a bit of luck if things are going against us.”

Sitting back, arms folded, holding court at last week’s Ulster SFC final launch in Fermanagh, the man who has brought Cavan to this point is enjoying the moment.

The dog in question nips at the heels of Cavan's Niall Murray and Monaghan's Kieran Hughes during their Ulster SFC quarter-final. Picture by Philip Walsh

Twenty-two years since they last lifted the Anglo-Celt, a success story Graham was a part of, and 18 years on from their last appearance in an Ulster final, you can hardly blame him.

Sunday’s meeting with Donegal will be their fourth Ulster Championship outing in just over a month – “unheard of in Cavan” – and, despite the aching bodies and minds, Graham and his players have carried the county on the crest of a blue wave.

The intent is serious and Graham knows that, having seen off Monaghan before toughing it out against Armagh after a replay, the Breffnimen have no need to call upon lucky charms or dig into the dark arts.

They are where they deserve to be, and Declan Bonner’s star-studded collective should hold no fear when they run out at St Tiernach’s Park.

Cavan boss Mickey Graham is enjoying the moment after leading the Breffnimen to a first Ulster final since 2001. Picture by John Merry

“We’ve earned the right to be there,” says the former Cavan Gaels star.

“We’ve come through three tough games and when you get to the final, the old cliché goes that it’s all on the day. I don’t believe it’s all on the day; you have to believe you can win it before you even get there. If you don’t believe you can win it, what’s the point? You might as well sit at home.

“Why would you sacrifice so much time, effort, so much of your personal life and get to the stage where you’ve earned it and not believe you can go on and follow through with it. That’s the big thing. You have to believe, and you have to dream.

“I’m sure these lads have dreamed of the day they’d play in an Ulster final, or wondered would they ever play in an Ulster final. They’re now in an Ulster final, so the dream can become a reality if they want it to become a reality.”

Graham was there in May 2018 when Cavan expectations were crushed as a dominant Donegal moved effortlessly into the Ulster quarter-final with eight points to spare.

Walking from Pairc MacCumhaill, he shared the disappointment of an entire county, knowing the gulf in class shouldn’t have been so great, even with the absence of a couple of key men.

“People thought Cavan were really going to give Donegal a game that day and, for whatever reason, the performance seemed to be very flat… you just felt they weren’t playing to their full potential."

Mickey Graham sr pictured with the dog after Cavan - managed by his son, Mickey jr - had defeated Monaghan

Thirteen months on, the same certainly cannot be said.

And Graham insists the harsh lessons learned during a Division One campaign that ended in relegation was “the making of this team”.

“What we learned in Division One was that we got punished for every mistake we made, whereas the other teams that have been around the block had enough cuteness to get them through.

“While we got relegated, we learned so much. We were creating as many chances as the opposition we were playing against but we weren’t showing it on the scoreboard and it was an area we needed to get right.

“Thankfully in the last couple of games we’ve started to improve on that aspect of our game.”

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