Cavan have learned from Ulster final heartache says Ciaran Brady
CAVAN will be coming up against an even better Donegal side than the one they faced in last year’s final – but stylish centre-back Ciaran Brady believes the Breffnimen have learned from that disappointment as they look towards Sunday’s rematch in Armagh.
Late goals from Cian Mackey and Conor Madden took the bad look off the scoreboard on a day when Cavan were a distinct second best against Declan Bonner’s side, their first Ulster final appearance in 18 years ending in a five-point defeat.
However, despite being without key men like Dara McVeety and Conor Moynagh in 2020, the Breffnimen have battled their way into another provincial decider, and showed their steel by recovering from 10 points back against Down to win by one.
Donegal - having easily seen off Armagh on Saturday - will go in as big favourites to lift the Anglo-Celt Cup for a third year running, but Brady is confident that Cavan have also improved in the 17 months since their last meeting.
“Donegal are a seasoned outfit, there’s talk about them challenging for the ultimate prize, the Sam Maguire. They made little of Armagh,” said the Arva clubman.
“But we have experience too and we’re starting to show it there with some of the performances, the likes of Padraig Faulkner, Killian Clarke, Gearoid McKiernan… we’re another year older and these last three wins will do us no harm.
“There’s no doubts they’ll be favourites but we’ll aim to start sharper and faster next weekend, and hopefully we do ourselves justice.”
A sharper start than they have shown at any other stage of this year’s Championship is the bare minimum Mickey Graham’s men must do if they are to stand any chance of upsetting the odds at the Athletic Grounds.
Cavan had to summon strong second half performances to see off Monaghan and Antrim, and were miles off the pace in the first 35 minutes of Sunday’s semi-final against the Mournemen.
That simply won’t do against a side of Donegal’s quality.
“We know lately we’ve been finishing strong… we didn’t just get the tempo as quick as we’d like to.
“In fairness Down brought that to the game and we just couldn’t match it. They play on the counter, we knew that coming into the game - we probably didn’t realise how much they actually do so when they put us on the back foot we probably weren’t tracking runners as we’d like to but we got that heat on in the second half.
“But we knew there were just some slight adjustments needed changing at half-time, the ball wasn’t sticking up front as we’d have wanted, and in the second half it did.
“There were a few colossal performances out there from the likes of Thomas Galligan, Gearoid McKiernan, Padraig Faulkner, they were able to win a few balls and that took the pressure off a bit. Once we got a foothold on the kick-outs it was a great template for us to work on for the rest of the second half.”
And while Graham opted to start Thomas Galligan - who came off the bench to such impressive effect the those earlier victories over Monaghan and Antrim - against Down, it was another super-sub, forward Conor Madden, who helped swing the game back in Cavan’s direction.
“It’s the beauty of this Championship, games week on and week and it gives an opportunity for different people,” said Brady.
“Conor Madden wasn’t even on the 26 last week or the week before, but he came in today at half-time and put in a man-of-the-match performance.
“That shows the strength-in-depth we have in the panel and the attitude lads have, to show up on a Tuesday night and a Friday night and really put in the work to deliver these kind of performances.”