GAA Football

2019 hammering irrelevant ahead of Tyrone Championship clash insists Mickey Graham

Cavan boss Mickey Graham insists his panel has plenty to focus on before their Championship showdown with Tyrone even comes on the radar. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

IT was one of the darkest days in Cavan’s recent history, but Breffni boss Mickey Graham insists their 2019 humiliation at the hands of Tyrone will count for nothing when these two familiar foes enter Ulster Championship combat again this summer.

Coming two weeks after provincial final defeat to Donegal in Graham’s first year at the helm, Cavan were swatted aside on a sweltering day in Clones, Mickey Harte’s Red Hands claiming a Super 8s spot with 16 points to spare.

Much has changed in the time between, of course – the Breffnimen rebounded from that disappointment to end a 23-year wait for the Anglo-Celt Cup while, for the first time since 2002, Tyrone won’t be led into Championship battle by Mickey Harte.

Instead Graham will pit his wits against the managerial duo of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher at Healy Park on the weekend of July 10/11, and he believes any ghosts from that last meeting almost two years ago are long banished.

“As a manager I try to only look forwards instead of backwards. It doesn’t get much tougher than Tyrone in Omagh, it’s always a tough place to go at the best of times.

“We know how good they are - they’ve been consistently one of the top four of five teams in the country for the past 20 years. They’re under new management now and they’ll be keen to make an impression on this year’s Championship, so we’re under no illusions how difficult a task lies ahead of us.

“What happened in the past is in the past, there’s no point looking across your shoulder and worrying about what happened before. There’s a lot of football to be played before we even start thinking of Tyrone to be honest.

“That game’s not until July, it’s a good bit in the distance… at the minute we’re worrying about the now, the present and focusing on getting to that first League game against Fermanagh in as good shape as possible, with as little injuries as possible.”

It remains to be seen to what extent Logan and Dooher will alter the counter-attacking style Tyrone have favoured in recent times, and Graham feels the short window of opportunity before Championship will leave most counties heading into the unknown.

“The talk is they [Tyrone] are probably looking at approaching things differently, but time will tell.

“No more than ourselves and every other team, there’ll be a lot of finding out done during the League about where we’re at, conditioning-wise, fitness-wise… three League games basically to get us ready for a Championship game a few weeks later is going to be difficult for everybody, especially if you add injuries into that as well.

“It’s not like previous years where you have a McKenna Cup, seven League games, a few challenges – you’ve a lot of opportunities to learn and to iron things out whereas this year, with the small window that’s there, you’re not going to have that much time to fix things of they’re not going well.

“It’s inevitable teams are going to pick up injuries. You can do all the training you want on your own but nothing prepares you for contact training. With such a short window to prepare, anybody that picks up a knock now is probably ruled out of that first League game straight away.

“It’s a good thing eight subs is coming in for the National League because I think you’ll need it. It’s a big ask for players to be ready to hit the ground running within four weeks.”

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