Graham hopes to sprinkle Mullinalaghta magic on Cavan

Mickey Graham spent the informative months of his inter-county managerial career flitting between the home and away changing-rooms in Kingspan Breffni Park.

It was an extreme balancing act as he proudly took the reins of his home county while still in charge of Longford club side Mullinalaghta, whose fairytale run to the Leinster title and into the All-Ireland series left the new Cavan boss with an unusual training set-up.

“It was one of the most hectic times of my life,” he admitted. “I’d finish one training session (at Breffni) and then pop across the pitch to another session.

“Mullinalaghta facilities couldn’t hosttraining at night because there wasn’t floodlights, so it was just as handy for them to come to Cavan. It worked out quite well.

“What happened with Mullinalaghta, they hadn’t won anything since 1952 and then they become the first Longford club to win Leinster.

“To do that was sweet but with it being finished now, I have a wee bit more time to get my head around things and concentrate on Cavan.”

Now Graham is hoping to sprinkle a little Mullinalaghta magic on Cavan’s Ulster SFC campaign, starting tonight in Breffni against Monaghan.

Cavan have only won three Ulster matches in the last 10 years, but given all he’s experienced in the last eight months, who could blame Graham for believing fairytales can happen all the time.

“You’d like to think so. If not, then why would you be involved in this?

“You go into management to try to do your best, to try get the best out of players and yourself.

“They are talking about a two-tier championship but it is up to counties as well to raise the standards.

“I believe it will happen if the right structures are in place, but you have to believe it will happen first.”

Cavan have had to suck it up as their oldest rivals Monaghan took two Ulster titles in 2013 and 2015. They’ve become Division One regulars and reached the All-Ireland semi-final last year.

It would be easy to be jealous, but Graham believes their success merely proves his point.

“You’d be envious but you have to admire them as well. They have been working off the same panel of players, maybe one or two new each year, but they have competed at the highest level. It just shows you what can be done when the right structures are put in place.”

Graham was part of the last Cavan Ulster championship-winning side in 1997. It feels like only a couple of years ago to him, but he knows how quickly things could develop if they could only get on a winning run.

It’s crazy, I was only 21 back then and you were thinking the world is your oyster. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way and we haven’t lived up to the standards we’d have liked but Cavan is football mad. Everybody sleeps and drinks football.

“If Cavan got any sort of a run at all it would be a huge lift to the GAA because of the support they have. They have been crying out for some success.

“If we could just win one game and build some momentum, you could see a buzz coming back to the county, because it’s been far too long to wait.”

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