Cavan's Padraig Faulkner eyes up a shot at Sam Maguire

Cavan's Padraig Faulkner in a race for possession with Down's Gerard Collins during last Sunday's Allianz Football League Division Three clash at Kingspan Breffni
Cavan's Padraig Faulkner in a race for possession with Down's Gerard Collins during last Sunday's Allianz Football League Division Three clash at Kingspan Breffni

THREE points up with 14 minutes to go in last year's Tailteann Cup final, Padraig Faulkner and Cavan are now feeling the effects of failing to close out that game against Westmeath.

"Even if we do win a League final, it doesn't guarantee our entry to the Sam Maguire competition," acknowledged Faulkner, currently riding high with Cavan at the head of Division Three.

So whatever level of priority supporters may be putting on securing promotion in the coming weeks, the big target from Faulkner's perspective this season is to reach the Ulster final to guarantee that place in the new All-Ireland round-robin competition.

"It is something that we talk about and we did address it at the start of the year – getting to the Ulster final is a priority to us, so that we do get that chance to fight for the Sam Maguire Cup," continued the former Allstar defender.

"We always look back and say it (losing the Tailteann Cup final) was a missed opportunity for us. We were outplayed on the day and it obviously gives us an uphill battle this year. We don't have that platform to just go straight into that new competition.

"We will have to work our socks off to get through the winners of Antrim against Armagh and then Down against Donegal. It is an uphill battle but I suppose we haven't looked that far yet really. We're just taking one game at a time. I know it's probably a cliche but your next game is the most important one so we're just looking at Antrim in the League."

Cavan, of course, could yet secure their place in the Sam Maguire Cup competition through the League if they manage to gain promotion to Division Two.

But they are disadvantaged by the fact that, aside from Westmeath being exempt from the Tailteann Cup as holders, a Division Four team will definitely qualify for the Connacht final and thereby the Sam Maguire Cup, taking up one of the coveted spots in the first-tier competition.

If the Connacht Championship had simply been seeded, that situation wouldn't have occurred and Cavan would be on surer footing now.

"It's kind of an opinion question, I suppose," said Faulkner when asked if the Connacht draw should have been seeded.

"It wasn't a great situation for us or any other teams in Division Three but no, I think it gives teams an added fight in the likes of Connacht, Munster or wherever it is. Taking that away from someone would, I suppose, stop their incentive to win. It's an added bonus if they get to a Connacht final that they can play in that competition so no, I wouldn't be seeding teams."

Cavan are currently top of Division Three on 10 points, two ahead of Fermanagh, with ties against Antrim and Fermanagh to come. Yet if neither the League nor the Ulster championship provide a route to the Sam Maguire Cup, Cavan will at least return to a Tailteann Cup competition that Faulkner rates highly.

"I thought it was a brilliant competition last year," he said. "We'd drifted down from Division One all the way to Division Four and maybe needed something like that. It was a great competition for us to develop up through the ranks of the league and then on further."