GAA Football

Profile: Six Cavan football stars who called it a day in last decade

Cavan's Cian Mackey in action during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 4 against Tyrone in St Tiernach's Park, Clones on Saturday July 6 2019. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Kevin Carney

In the amateur world of Gaelic games, players don’t normally do retirement announcements.

In Cavan, formal retirements are as common as the sound of the corncrake locally.

Cavan's county players normally just shuffle off the big stage and quietly see out the remainder of their playing days on the club front.

In recent years, a coterie of Cavan seniors have decided to take ‘time out’.

Some for a year (2020), like Conor Moynagh and Dara McVeety, and others, like Killian Clarke, indefinitely.

Down the years, other high profile Cavan players have removed themselves from the limelight for a period(s) of time.

Top-notch attacker Séanie Johnston (Cavan Gaels) has had two stints (2004-2011 and 2016-2018) with his native Cavan as has Mountnugent clubman David Givney (2009-2014 and 2016) and also Cuchulainns’ Eugene Keating (2010-2014 and 2016).

Interestingly, all three transferred from their native clubs to other clubs before re-joining their home club less than two seasons later.

Johnston famously went to St Kevin’s (Kildare) while Givney teamed up with Ballymun Kickhams on his travels while Keating lined out with another Dublin club, Kilmacud Crokes.

None of the trio has formally announced, as yet, that they’re no longer interested in partaking of the inter-county scene.

However given their age; Johnston (36); Givney (31); Keating (31); and the fact that none of them were involved with Cavan last year, the odds are that we won’t see them in a Cavan jersey again.

The fact is, Cavan’s turnover at senior level has been seriously high over the last decade.

In 2015, former All-Star nominee Martin Dunne quit the county panel, after just three years in the fold.

In the wake of accountant Dunne’s shock decision the then Cavan manager Terry Hyland claimed he had lost 14 of his 2014 squad because of work commitments.

Amidst the dozens and dozens of Cavan players who passed through the corridors of Kingspan Breffni between 2010 and 2020 and who are no longer part of the furniture there, the more high-profile players who have left us in no doubt that – at least for now – that they’re definitely no longer interested in lining out for Cavan are as follows...

Cian Mackey

The skilful Castlerahan ace went public in January last with his decision to leave the Cavan senior panel.

In 2005, he became one of the very few players of the modern era to play county minor and county senior in the same calendar year.

That year the loose-limbed Ballyjamesduff native starred for a Cavan minor side who went under by just a single point in a replay to a Down team that went went onto lift the All-Ireland title.

The then 17 year old live-wire attacker was parachuted into the senior panel later that summer and made a cameo appearance as a substitute in the All-Ireland SFC Qualifier defeat to Mayo in Roscommon.

After breaking into the senior panel, the talented youngster combined his duties with Cavan with playing League of Ireland football for some four seasons with, firstly, Monaghan United and then Home Farm in Dublin.

Mackey jettisoned the soccer to concentrate on winning an Ulster SFC medal and a Cavan SFC medal.

He was out of luck with the former goal but struck the jackpot for the first time in 2017 (repeating the feat in 2018) with his home club.

The wear and tear over the years contributed to him contracting a painful inflammation injury which fractured his involvement on both the club and county fronts between September 2013 and February 2014.

Last year, the flame-haired playmaker was successfully employed by county boss Mickey Graham as an impact sub with his displays pivotal in spiriting Cavan to the Ulster SFC final.

Ronan Flanagan

The former Cavan captain (2009) was a first-team choice for Cavan virtually every season between 2005 and 2015.

In announcing his departure from the Cavan panel just less than five years ago, Flanagan arguably spoke for many of his ilk when he declared that he could no longer give sufficient time to meet the demands that come with being a county man.

The Virginia-based secondary school teacher initially made a name for himself as an elusive, ball-winning half-forward but, gradually, as the game of football evolved so too did Flanagan’s role with Cavan and he became a seventh defender almost and later an excellent sweeper.

One of Cavan’s most influential club players of the past decade, he captained his club Castlerahan as they annexed the county SFC title in 2017 for the very first time in their history and led the charge again as they successfully defended their title.

But its Flanagan’s sure-footedness, agility and lung-bursting runs in the royal blue of Cavan that lifts him onto a higher level than the vast majority of his peers. His

Reflecting on his career, Flanagan fingered Cavan’s epic victory (1-22 to 0-19) over Derry (after extra-time) in an All-Ireland Round Three qualifier in Celtic Park in 2013 as his stand-out outing with Cavan.

Micheál Lyng

Possibly the best two-footed Cavan footballer to have lit up the past decade in a royal blue jersey.

The Cavan Gaels clubman called time on his county career in 2016 at the age of 31 after a career that was dogged by injuries.

Like others, Lyng had two stints with the Cavan seniors.

He made his debut in 2004, scoring six points against Down in the Ulster. In the same year, he won a Railway Cup medal with Ulster as a tearaway half-forward.

Sadly, the spectre of an injury-ravaged career raised its ugly head in 2005 and he spent most of that year trying to get rid of groin and hamstring injuries

He bounced back in 2006 to win O’Byrne Cup and Sigerson Cup medals with DCU while leading the charge on the home front and collecting 10 Cavan SFC medals over the course of his career.

In 2017 he joined Seanie Johnston and All-Star nominee Martin Dunne in the Gaels full-forward line that powered them to the Ulster Club SFC final only to lose out to Slaughtneil.

After stepping aside in 2010, PE teacher Lyng returned to the Cavan fold in 2011 and was an ever-present ‘till finally hanging up his boots in 2016.

Mark McKeever

McKeever formally called it quits with Cavan in 2015. He will probably go down in Cavan football history as one of the county’s most underrated players of the modern era.

The versatile Gowna clubman starred for the Breffni boys for 13 years having made his debut against Antrim in the 2013 Ulster SFC.

McKeever first came to prominence in Cavan as a schoolboy footballer with Moyne Community School in county Longford, just a few kilometres from his home in Gowna.

The then out-and-out attacker scored 3-4 and was man-of-the-match as his alma mater beat their Ballyhaunis (Mayo) opponents in the 2003 All-Ireland ‘B’ Senior Colleges final.

He caught the eye, nationally, in his outings with the Ireland U17s against Australia in 2004. So much so that he was afforded the Irish Player of the Series award.

A winner of three Cavan SFC medals, McKeever was well respected by his team-mates and opponents alike and was recognised at inter-provincial level.

An excellent ‘sweeper’ in the latter part of his career with both club and county, a persistent knee injury hastened his departure off the inter-county stage five years ago.

A report in the Sunday Business Post a couple of years ago, Donegal’s Karl Lacey claimed McKeever very nearly ruined his (Lacey’s) career before it began.

Lacey, the 2012 Footballer of the Year, recalled coming up against the Gowna man in a minor match.

"I remember a minor game I played for Donegal," Lacey answered when asked the question: ever ripped apart in a game?

"I was marking Mark McKeever. He nearly finished my career.”

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