Cavan manager Mickey Graham says Monaghan are targeting a revenge mission

Cavan meet Monaghan in their Ulster Championship opener for the second year in succession, and manager Mickey Graham says his side are braced for a Farney backlash after upsetting the Division 1 side last year.

The former Mullinalaghta boss oversaw an ambush at Kingspan Breffni Park in 2019, but Cavan won’t enjoy the element of surprise against their neighbours in Clones on Saturday.

“They have made no secret of it for the last number of months since the draw was made that this is the game they were focusing on,” Graham said of Monaghan.

“Even during the course of the League, the players have come out and said they were disappointed with the performance last year. They wanted to correct that this year. They’ve been targeting this from the word go. So we have to be really on our game if we’re going to keep the game tight.

“This is definitely a game they have targeted, no more than ourselves as well. But if you’re looking at the form book at the current time, you’d say Monaghan will be strongly fancied for this one.”

You’d say Monaghan will be strongly fancied for this one.

Graham is keen to put the pressure on the opposition

Graham feels last year’s meeting will have little bearing on Saturday’s showdown.

“Like everything else, the times have changed,” he said.

“We have different personnel that we had last year. We could be five, six, seven different lads from last year that we don’t have this year. Monaghan probably nearly have the same squad of players, the same familiar faces, the same bit of experience. So we’ve had to adapt, the newer lads have come in, they’re still finding their feet, you have to give them time.

“Whereas Monaghan, they’re an experienced outfit. They’re competing in Division 1 regularly now for the last seven or eight years.

“It will probably be a totally different game to what it was last year. It’s winter football as well. Last year was a lovely summer’s evening. The bounce of the ball, the landscape has changed. Winter football is about rolling up the sleeves, and getting the hands dirty and scrapping for every ball because there’s going to be lots of mistakes made during the course of the game, considering the weather conditions and everything else. You just have to adapt to whatever the day throws at you.”

Cavan goalkeeper Raymond Galligan was in agreement.

“It is a completely different challenge this year,” said the shot-stopper.

“Circumstances with Covid has meant that not every team is going to be going in as prepared as years previously. One thing we can take is, unfortunately, we came into the Monaghan game in similar type of circumstance having been relegated from Division One, albeit. I think Championship games between Monaghan and Cavan are very much on the day. Form does definitely play a part, but a lot has to do with trying to win their own battles. I think last weekend will certainly be parked by the time Saturday comes around.

And after suffering the shock of relegation last Saturday, the Breffni County are relishing the quick turnaround to put that disappointment to bed.

“Yeah it’s disappointing, there’s no doubt about it. There’s no point in saying otherwise,” Graham said.

“Sometimes when you have time to think about these things and time to dwell on them, you can over-elaborate, and unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do without it. Because of the quick turnaround, we as a collective group have an opportunity now to try and fix what went wrong last week as regards our own game, how we can work on things that didn’t happen for us. We have an opportunity to do that now, and hopefully, we can learn the lessons from last week and bring them into the game on Saturday.”

“We still have an opportunity to have a successful season, albeit playing in Division Three next year,” added Galligan.

“We beat Monaghan and anything is possible. Our focus is all about Monaghan now. In years gone by we’ve had a break of seven, eight, maybe even nine weeks between League and Championship. Every player just wants to try to fix some of the mistakes from the last day.”

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