Cavan’s Graham well versed in delivering Mission Impossible

It tells a tale of the scale of the challenge facing Cavan this weekend that not even Mickey Graham, the man who inspired the miracle of Mullinalaghta, seems overly confident.

Cavan’s Graham well versed in delivering Mission Impossible

It tells a tale of the scale of the challenge facing Cavan this weekend that not even Mickey Graham, the man who inspired the miracle of Mullinalaghta, seems overly confident.

He may have managed the tiny Longford club to Leinster glory in one of the truly great underdog tales in GAA history, but their fate was at least in their own hands.

The scenario this time is that Graham’s Cavan must beat Dublin — a giant challenge in itself — and hope then that Monaghan lose to Mayo and that Roscommon draw with Kerry. If those three things don’t happen, they’ll be relegated to Division 2 of the Allianz Football League.

No great surprise then that Graham isn’t predicting another fairytale outcome for the raging underdog.

“Look, we’ll not paper over it, it’s hugely disappointing,” said Graham of Cavan’s predicament.

“Because I feel that while results haven’t gone our way, we were learning — but we just didn’t learn as quickly as I’d hoped.

“But definitely the lads have come in and they’ve seen a big step up in intensity and you’ll only get better from performing in that environment.

So it’s a harsh lesson. In a lot of the games, we had a realistic chance of getting something out of them, but we didn’t, and that comes down to the experience end of things.

“That’s something we need to learn very quickly because the one thing we did learn is that you get punished for every mistake you make at this level.”

Graham isn’t entirely throwing in the towel and acknowledged that if Mullinalaghta, a tiny outpost in Longford pressed up against the Cavan border, can beat Kilmacud Crokes, then Cavan can at least do their part this Sunday by beating Dublin.

“I suppose it just shows what can be done, nothing is impossible,” he said of the club experience. “If you have the right bunch of players and you have commitment and you have everybody pulling in the one direction — you need luck along the way too — then all those things combined can help you.

“And when you get to a one-off game, it’s all on the day and about the frame of mind you are in and the frame of mind of the opposition.”

It remains to be seen what frame of mind Dublin arrive at Kingspan Breffni in after losing to Tyrone last weekend — their third loss from six outings. It’s the first time Dublin have lost three league games under Jim Gavin and while some pundits have questioned them, Graham isn’t about to.

“They are probably still in the middle of their pre-season at the moment,” he argued. “Whereas other teams have been working away since November, they probably only started back in mid-January and then they have a few injuries as well.

“Tyrone are probably a few weeks further down the road than Dublin. While it was a great result for Tyrone, I wouldn’t read too much into it from a Dublin perspective because they will be a different animal in the summer and if anyone thinks any different, then they are going to be proven wrong I’d presume.”

If Cavan and Roscommon — currently in the relegation positions — do go down on Sunday, it will mean that eight of the 22 counties promoted from Division 2 since the league was restructured for 2008 have gone straight back down.

Another seven have been relegated in just their second season in the top flight and some counties — Laois, Derry, and Westmeath — have slipped all the way down to Division 4.

It raises the question: would teams aspiring to play in the top flight be better off staying in Division 2 and avoiding the mental hardship of a likely relegation?

“You’d like to think you could have got results early on in the league and if you’d stayed up then you’d definitely be better prepared then going into the Championship,” said Graham.

“But then talking to other managers in Division 2, they’d tell you it’s very competitive and maybe it is an opportunity to get other players more game time, younger lads because it’s not as intense as Division 1 or as competitive as regards the tighter games.

“Looking at Division 2, there are four or five teams that could be playing Division 1 football easily so both divisions really are competitive.”

Graham was speaking at Croke Park at the launch of Cavan’s ‘Win the Dream in Dublin 15’ fundraiser.

It is an opportunity to win a house in Dublin 15 worth €375,000 with tickets costing €100. All money raised will go towards constructing the Cavan GAA Polo Grounds Centre of Excellence next to Kingspan Breffni, a training facility with three floodlit pitches and a high-performance gym. See www.winindublin15.ie

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