Belfast Telegraph

Cavan's patience with youth is paying dividends

By Declan Bogue

For the last four years, Cavan have been in the Ulster under-21 final. They have won the last three, beating Tyrone twice, and Donegal last year.

Tonight, they begin their defence with a tough route. They must play Derry in the preliminary round and should they get past them, will face Tyrone, who won the Shamrock Cup – a warm-up competition – beating Antrim in the final.

However, the Cavan minor team that won the Ulster Championship in 2011 have come of age to form the spine of their team and it would surprise nobody if they were to defend their title again.

Before their 2011 win, Cavan had only won two titles at this level – when Martin McHugh was manager in 1996, and 1988.

This year, they probably have their best team of all, led by former senior player Peter Reilly, but they have the toughest sequence of games. In the last three years, they only had to play outside Breffni and Brewster Park once.

Taking them to Celtic Park on a Wednesday night might be dicey, but Derry manager Paddy Crozier even extended his sympathies in this regard, saying: "At the end of the day it's a long haul for Cavan and unfair on Cavan to take fellas from Dublin on a Wednesday night.

"Realistically, we could have been looking at a Saturday or a Sunday for these matches, but that's not the way it is."

How have they done it? By patiently examining what they had, and allowing players to stay among their age group, not becoming flogged by the senior team before their time.

Last summer, Cavan played Championship football in Croke Park for the first time since 1997.

We will see a lot more of them there, because they have their house in order and see underage football with clear logic.

Belfast Telegraph

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