Football

Cavan craving League stability admits Padraig Faulkner

Padraig Faulkner is part of an experienced backbone that has propelled Cavan to the brink of Division Three promotion. Picture by Philip Walsh
Padraig Faulkner is part of an experienced backbone that has propelled Cavan to the brink of Division Three promotion. Picture by Philip Walsh Padraig Faulkner is part of an experienced backbone that has propelled Cavan to the brink of Division Three promotion. Picture by Philip Walsh

PADRAIG Faulkner admits he has spent his seven years so far with Cavan 'bouncing up and down' the Allianz League's divisions and is now chasing some stability.

Settling in Division One is presumably the ultimate aim for Cavan but having operated in Division Four as recently as last year, a couple of years holding their own in Division Two would probably be welcomed.

With Cavan currently looking good for a top two finish in Division Three ahead of Saturday's penultimate round clash with Antrim, it will be the fourth time in his career that Faulkner has experienced League promotion while in 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021, it was relegation.

Neighbours Roscommon are often described as the league's ultimate 'yo-yo' team but Cavan haven't spent two seasons in the same division since a couple of years in Division Two in 2015 and 2016.

"We've been bouncing up and down," acknowledged Allstar defender Faulkner.

"Hopefully in the future we can just get that bit of consistency to stay...I know I saw a stat that Dublin and Monaghan are two of the most consistent teams in the last eight years or so but look, yeah, that's all we want.

"I think with taking relegations, it is a blow to any team. Yes, you can regroup but we're just looking for that bit of consistency with Cavan."

Throw in the landmark Ulster championship success of 2020 into that period of climbing up and sliding down the divisions and it highlights the tumult of the last decade or so.

Faulkner has been a pillar of stability throughout and, all things going to plan, will make his 100th appearance for the county in the Allianz League Division Two final at Croke Park.

"Any game you go out to play could be your last," said the Kingscourt man.

"Look at Ciaran Brady, me and him would have played about equally the same amount of games and he got his real bad injury with the cruciate. You can't take anything for granted. It's a feat and it's great but it's not only me either, I think Jason (McLoughlin) is very close as well.

"You had Killian Brady, Ray (Galligan), Killian Clarke, Marty (Reilly) obviously and Gearoid (McKiernan) too. There's not so many years where you could say that that many players had, or were near to, 100 appearances. I think it's probably a credit to past managers and to Mickey Graham as well."

Faulkner said that Graham has done a terrific job of performing a 'quiet rebuild' of the team, carrying along those experienced performers whilst simultaneously injecting new blood into the group.

Ryan O'Neill, Brandon Boylan and Niall Carolan are among those livening things up.

"The players that have come on from the U-21s, the standards that they're putting in, I know when I was their age I wasn't nearly as physically developed as they are," said Faulkner.

The return and strong form of former captain Dara McVeety has been a big plus too.

"He drives standards at training," said Faulkner of the centre-back.

"For a lad who has been away for two years, you couldn't have expected how he would come back and slot straight back in. Physically and mentally he just slotted straight back in. You'd swear he was there the whole time."

With five wins from five, a draw against Antrim would secure promotion for Cavan.

"Antrim are a hurting team," noted Faulkner, referencing the Saffrons' 4-27 shellacking from Westmeath. "They're going to come with a real fight in them after losing by so much."