Cavan shocked the province of Ulster by claiming their first Anglo-Celt Cup since 1997 last week. Now they are looking to shock the whole of Ireland.
“Nobody expected us to get here,” smiled Thomas Galligan. “There’s no pressure on us, we’re going out and playing football. The favourites tag probably weighed heavy on Donegal the other night so hopefully it’ll do the same to Dublin.”
They have thrived as underdogs this year, doing things the hard way. In all four of their Ulster Championship matches, the Breffni County trailed at half-time. But they reeled in Monaghan, Antrim, Down and Donegal for the most unlikely of triumphs, particularly in the decider.
“You were listening to it all week about you haven’t a chance and you hadn’t a chance against Down and hadn’t a chance against Monaghan,” he noted.
“People will say it doesn’t matter but that really gets on a lad’s shoulder. Everyone would have used their own way to motivate themselves but for me that was a big enough thing because I’m just sick of people putting Cavan down to be honest.
“The whole country would have thought that Donegal were just going to turn up and tune in and they’ll get themselves ready for Dublin.”
The provincial victory came as a major boost to the county, which was hit by higher coronavirus rates than the rest of the country in recent months. In that regard, it was a significant victory for the people of Cavan.
“I probably haven’t met enough people yet to really get a sense of it. But I’m sure it has really lifted spirits,” said Galligan.
“I got messages after the Monaghan game about how things were bad and we were after getting relegated and it was all doom and gloom, but after we beat Monaghan it just lifted everyone. There’s been lots of messages and you meet people in shops and they are just so proud of what we have done and how it has brightened their days and they can’t wait for Sunday because it is getting them through the week.
“It’s nice to hear that, because it kind of makes it all worthwhile.”
Graham’s golden touch
The Cavan players are responding to manager Mickey Graham, who is getting the best out of the squad.
“He’s obviously a top-level manager, you’d seen what he did with Mullinalaghta with such a small pick and they won a Leinster final,” Galligan noted.
“His record proves how good he is, he doesn’t really have to try and talk about how good he is – he has shown how good he is. He just instils a bit of belief in all of the players that we are good enough to win, and I think maybe last year we were maybe a bit cautious or shell-shocked in the final. But maybe this year we naturally showed that we are as good as any team in Ulster. It’s nice to get some respect back and give Mickey the credit he deserves, because he’s a top-level manager.”
But the dust has now settled, and Cavan are eyeing a bigger prize. Although, a significant challenge stands in their way if they are to claim their first All-Ireland title since 1952, as they face Dublin in Croke Park.
“I suppose it is a little bit daunting but it’s also exciting to be playing the best team in the country,” said Galligan.
“You’ll really know where you’re at after you play them. It might be a bit daunting or whatever but I think more people will be excited to get playing. If you had to ask people at the start of the year that Cavan were going to be in an All-Ireland semi-final, you would have got good odds. So I think we’ll enjoy it more-so than be afraid of it.”
Watch Dublin vs Cavan live on Sky Sports Mix from 4:30pm Saturday.
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