Cancer-free Caomhin McGovern back in Cavan squad for McKenna Cup clash with Antrim

James Smith is one of four experienced Cavan players ruled out with injury. Pic Philip Walsh.
James Smith is one of four experienced Cavan players ruled out with injury. Pic Philip Walsh.

Dr McKenna Cup, Section C, Round 2: Antrim v Cavan (tomorrow, Portglenone, 1.30pm)

MICKEY Graham has welcomed Caomhin McGovern back into the Cavan squad for tomorrow’s trip to Antrim.

The Shannon Gaels clubman featured at senior level in 2021, scoring two points in the National League against Fermanagh, but just two months’ later he was diagnosed with Stage Two Lymphoma Cancer.

Thankfully, the talented forward has made a complete recovery and Graham says he is working hard to force his way back into the Breffni county starting line-up.

“He is just building himself back up to full fitness now,” said Graham.

“It’s great to have him back playing football and Oisin Kieran, who went through something similar, is in the squad too and he has been a great help to him.”

After their mauling in Armagh on Wednesday night, Antrim could do with a morale-boosting performance against their Division Three rivals.

Looking a yard off the pace early on, the Saffrons were second best in every department in the first half at the Athletic Grounds. Armagh did basically as they pleased until the break but Antrim did make a better fist of it in the second half. There was much more purpose and energy in their running and tackling and Odhran Eastwood’s two goals meant they salvaged some pride from what was, after all, their season-opener.

Eastwood was one of 11 substitutes used by manager Andy McEntee on the night and he could start tomorrow. So could St Paul’s clubman Pat Finnegan who made an impression after coming off the bench as did James McAuley and full-forward Pat Shivers.

Visitors Cavan will be minus injured quartet Gearoid McKiernan, Paddy Lynch and James Smith, Jason McLoughlin and manager Mickey Graham will blood some of the youngsters he has called into his panel.

“We’ve a few boys who are trying to get back to full fitness and returning from injury and that will take a few more weeks,” Graham explained.

“We’ve added 10 new lads to the squad and we have the core group still there so we have 37 in the squad but we probably have 23 fit players for this weekend but that’s to be expected with the split-season and the demands on players. A lot of counties are in the same boat.”

Several of the emerging players who lost out narrowly to Tyrone (0-11 to 0-10) in last year’s Ulster U20 Championship final have been called up to the senior ranks. Among them are Tiarnan Madden, Niall Carolan and Cian Reilly.

Meanwhile, Gowna’s Ryan Donoghue, Crosserlough’s Brandon Boyle and Johnny McCabe (Arva) are also in contention for a place in Graham’s team which will be minus Thomas Galligan and Luke Fortune who have both stepped away.

With a game behind them, Graham expects Antrim to give a determined account of themselves on home soil tomorrow afternoon.

“Wednesday night in Armagh was their first competitive game of the year and that will bring them on leaps and bounds,” he said.

“You’d expect that has blown away the cobwebs and when you look at all the pre-season competitions around the country, a lot of teams are using them to look at new players and expose new players to what’s required at inter-county standard.

“The McKenna Cup is a great way to do that without putting them under huge pressure so it’s a good opportunity to get minutes’ into the legs and get players up to speed and integrate new lads into the system as well.”