GAA Football

Kieran McGeary: Cavan character will test Tyrone resolve

Tyrone's Kieran McGeary is put under pressure by Kerry's Sean O Shea in the 2020 Allianz Football Div 1 game at Healy Park in Omagh on Sunday February 9 2020. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
Francis Mooney

Healy Park will hold no fear for a Cavan team bursting with confidence and brimming with talent, according to Tyrone attacker Kieran McGeary.

The Ulster champions launch the defence of their title with a trip to Omagh for a sudden death clash with the Red Hands in the stand-out tie of the first round.

McGeary admitted he was hugely impressed by the courage and passion displayed by Mickey Graham’s side in winning a first provincial title in 23 years last November.

With a string of heroic performance they turned the form book on its head, and the odds have shortened as they target a Tyrone side under new management.

“They will be huge opponents and that’s the way we have to face it. They are the Ulster champions and we have a lot of work to do in order to be able to match them,” said McGeary.

“They’re a fantastic team, one of the top teams in Ulster and that’s what you want to be taking on straight away.

“In the past it has been nip and tuck. They sometimes won them and we sometimes nipped them. There’s no favourable team there.”

Tyrone’s Championship challenge lasted just one game in 2020, while Cavan took the series by storm with dramatic victories over Monaghan, Antrim, Down and Donegal to script a compelling narrative that began back in the preliminary round.

Relentless and fearless in everything they did, everything fell into place in a memorable campaign that ended in an emotional cascade at the Athletic Grounds, where hot favourites Donegal succumbed to the Breffni frenzy.

“It was the championship of dreams that they had,” McGeary recalled.

“The one word, for me, that you would use was character.

“They were absolutely fully-deserved Ulster champions and they reaped the reward of their hard work.

“It was a bit like Dungannon in ,Tyrone, it was just like every time they faced somebody, you didn’t know what was going to happen.”

The straight knock-out formula that caught Tyrone cold and propelled Cavan to glory will be applied once again this summer, but McGeary has no regrets over losing the safety net of the Qualifier rounds.

“That makes it even more exciting for the spectators and for the players.

“It’s do or die, and that’s the way you would want your championship to be.

“If you had asked any player a couple of years ago if they would like their League games lumped together and leading straight into the Championship, they would probably take it.

“Everyone would probably say yes, because at the end of the day, you want to be playing matches, you want to play football.

“Obviously you don’t want to be on the losing side, but if you can get through those big games it’s fantastic.”

The Pomeroy clubman questions the value of home advantage, and doesn’t see a great deal of benefit to a Tyrone side that has experienced mixed fortunes at the Omagh stadium in recent seasons.

“It doesn’t really mean much, to be honest. People will say it’s important but it doesn’t put you two or three points up on the board.

“Home advantage can sometimes be blown out of proportion, it’s just where the game is being played, it’s still fifteen against fifteen for 75 minutes.

“Cavan will absolutely not fear coming to Healy Park, not one bit, and why would they?

“Our record there in the past hasn’t been exceptional. It hasn’t been brutal, but it hasn’t been brilliant.

“Home advantage is one thing, but there’s a game to be played, wherever it be, and we have intentions of playing it to the best of our ability.”

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GAA Football