Mickey Graham impressed by Down's quick progress

Cavan manager Mickey Graham, whose side face Down in a Tailteann Cup quarter-final this weekend
Cavan manager Mickey Graham, whose side face Down in a Tailteann Cup quarter-final this weekend Cavan manager Mickey Graham, whose side face Down in a Tailteann Cup quarter-final this weekend

CAVAN boss Mickey Graham has been impressed with Down’s development under Conor Laverty in the Kilcoo man’s first season in charge.

The pair will cross paths this Saturday in the quarter-final of the Tailteann Cup, with the winner making their way through to the last four and earning a run-out in Croke Park.

Down just missed out on promotion from Division Three, finishing behind eventual winners Cavan and Fermanagh, while they also overcame Donegal in the opening round of the Ulster Championship, their first provincial win since 2019.

“Considering where they were last year and where they’ve come to this year, there’s definitely been a big transformation in them,” said Graham, who guided Cavan to a 0-24 to 1-12 victory over Down in the first round of last season’s Tailteann Cup.

“They have lots of quality players, they’re a young team, a team this is probably building for the future as well. They’ve made huge strides in a short space of time under Conor.

“I’ve definitely been impressed with them, and they were very impressive in that second half against Longford the last day too.”

Down saw off Paddy Christie’s men by eight points last weekend, coming back from three down at the break.

Their substitutions had a telling influence on the result, with Danny Magill claiming the all-important goal, while Rory Mason and Ross Carr also chipped in with points.

“That’s the way the game has gone now, you need lads coming off the bench that are going to make an impact especially with the intensity of the games and obviously with the weather conditions being very hot, it’s very difficult to stay at a high intensity for 70 minutes.

“It just shows that they have a lot of quality players in reserve as well. That second half, they were very good and probably just took a while to get to grips with it but that’s football, and you have to be very impressed with the way they stuck at it.”

Cavan, having topped their group with three wins from three against Laois, London and Offaly, have had an extra week’s break and will also enjoy home advantage, but the benefits of such luxuries won’t be known until after the game says the 2020 Ulster Championship-winning manager.

“It’s always nice to play at home in your home pitch but Down have been to Breffni Park numerous times so they’re well used to it at this stage,” added Graham.

“The extra week, was it a benefit? Could you have done with another game? It’s hard to know.

“It’s very hard to beat playing matches, I suppose the extra week gave us a bit of time to get a few more lads back on the training field and it gave lads more time to recover.

“That was our aim at the start of the Tailteann Cup, was to try and get a home draw, we achieved that, and we just have to wait and see now if it’s all worthwhile.”