GAA Football

Targets set, Killian Clarke looks ahead to new Cavan challenges

Cavan's Killian Clarke strides away fin action with Donegals Michael Langan in the Ulster Senior Football Championshp final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.   Picture by Seamus Loughran.
Kevin Óg Carney

Killian Clarke is losing no sleep over the GAA’s decision to give their subsidiary competitions a break this year.

Casualties of the war against Covid 19 continue to mount and Clarke and his Cavan colleagues won’t be afforded the chance this year to win the county’s first Dr McKenna Cup since 2000.

“I’ll just say I won’t be needing any counselling ‘cause of the lack of McKenna Cup action this month,” Clarke quips.

“I don’t think many inter-county footballers in Ulster will be missing the McKenna Cup at the minute to be honest although it has always been a good avenue for fellas on the fringe of panels to try and impress and a good way for managers to get a better picture of what they have to work with.

“But I’m sure there’ll be enough challenges and in-house matches down the line to keep the new, players and the management team happy.”

Clarke admits he has experienced something of an eight-year love-hate relationship with the Dr. McKenna Cup.

He distinctly remembers being “between a rock and a hard place” in 2015 when, as a student, he was briefly answerable to two managers, namely, Cavan’s Terry Hyland and UUJ’s Adrian McGuckin, in the same season.

“Thankfully, both men got on well and there was never anything but good relations between Cavan and UUJ in my time under the two lads,” Clarke explains.

''I played for Cavan when we (UUJ) bowed out of the competition but unfortunately we went onto lose to Tyrone in the final.”

Ironically, Clarke famously enjoyed his best ever year in football in 2020 when he omitted himself for consideration for any McKenna Cup action by walking away from the Cavan panel in January only to return to the fold in September and bag an Ulster SFC medal a couple of months later.

A senior debutant with Cavan in 2012, the Shercock clubman is adamant that everyone who makes Mickey Graham’s panel this year will be totally determined to make it back-to-back Anglo Celt Cup triumphs.

“There’ll be nobody resting on their laurels, that’s for sure,” the Dublin-based Financial Services employee declares.

“Obviously, we had a great championship last year but we didn’t do ourselves justice in the national league and going down to division three was a hard pill to swallow.

“Playing in division three could just suit us though ‘cause the spotlight from the media will still be on us and we’ll be under a fair bit of pressure to get promotion which is no bad thing.

“Maybe there are lads on the panel who felt they didn’t personally realise their own ambitions last year or others who feel that they didn’t just get enough of a chance to impress last year. They’ll be bursting to impress in the league games so the competition for places will be interesting.”

Twenty-six year old Clarke believes the Breffnimen have the strength-in-depth, the quality and ambition to consolidate their 2020 heroics. A tweek here and a change of direction there will help their cause too, he moots:

“I think we could learn a bit from our (all-Ireland) semi-final game against Dublin in terms of what is needed to stay at the top table. It would be good to look at how the Dubs’ gained so many turnovers and their support play and their running off the shoulder.

“We did well from our long kick-outs last year but maybe we could look at getting more from our short kick-outs this season.

“Mickey (Graham) and the lads in the backroom have given us targets, collectively, to aim for this year and we know they’ll come up with a strategy to get the best out of us again.”

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GAA Football