Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Canavan follows the Harte formula

By Declan Bogue

An understated pursuit of excellence. It has been the way of Mickey Harte throughout his glorious nine-year spell in charge of Tyrone.

And his clubmate and former captain Peter Canavan has conducted himself in similar fashion in bringing Fermanagh to Saturday's division four league final against Wicklow.

The team is everything, individual performances only adding to the collective effort.

Despite their almost flawless league campaign to date, Canavan has warned that any hint of misplaced hubris going into this weekend will cost his adopted county dearly.

Reflecting on the earlier league meeting between the two teams, he highlighted the element of luck they enjoyed that day in Brewster Park.

“The day we played Wicklow, they had plenty of opportunities themselves and they had a lot of possession in the second half. Certainly, they will not fear going to Croke Park and playing Fermanagh,” said Canavan.

A trio of goal chances went astray for the Garden County, and a first-half shot blocked by Barry Owens hit the crossbar, leaving a hugely relieved Canavan cast in the role of lucky general.

As Fermanagh came through the league campaign practically unscathed, a number of comparisons were drawn between the managerial philosophies of Canavan and Harte.

Both men used in excess of 30 players throughout the campaign, trying out a variety of styles and players in different roles, while also keeping a winning run going.

And while Harte kept with his policy of rotating goalkeepers Pascal McConnell, John Devine and Johnny Curran, Canavan did the same with Ronan Gallagher, Chris Breen and Chris Snow.

In doing so, both counties only conceded one goal each throughout the league series.

For his part, Canavan feels the argument is more nuanced, pointing to some individual heroics between the sticks — not least by Ronan Gallagher in Waterford — as key to the clean sheet tally.

Canavan added: “Statistics don't always give you an accurate picture. There were numerous games where our defence were cut open by opposing teams and only for good goalkeeping and poor shooting from the opposition, we would have conceded more goals.

“With the goalkeeping situation, it's a case of giving them a chance.

“I would have seen very little of the three men for a number of years, so it's just a case of seeing what they were like. It's up to others to start comparing and contrast after that.

“The one aspect I was more than pleased about that we can compare, is the fact that ourselves and Tyrone have been undefeated in the league.

“I'd take that any day of the week.”

Before Canavan arrived, Fermanagh were a county divided after last years' mid-season player walkouts, and a winter of discontent which dragged on through an external review compiled by Jarlath Burns.

Not long after Canavan began, the impression he made in the early stages was enough for Shane McCabe (pictured) to leave a lucrative soccer career in the Irish League behind and join the revolution.

McCabe is well placed to offer an assessment of his manager; “I think he came into a situation where it was at its' lowest ebb and his profile has instilled a great deal of confidence in the players.

“On the morale side of things, he's been part of a county squad with Tyrone and he knows the general way that team morale is built; on trust. He's very in synch with what you need to be successful within a county structure and what you need on an individual basis as well.”

While previous Wicklow manager Mick O'Dwyer never put much store in the league — failing to win promotion in his four-year term — current incumbent Harry Murphy set that target as part of his manifesto when he took over, saying recently, “It wouldn't have been right for them to have spent their careers playing in division four. So they listened and got on with it.”

Wicklow will be dangerous. Despite losing their second and third league games against Waterford and that game in Enniskillen, they put together a winning streak, capped off by a gritty win over Clare in the final game, with promotion on the line for both sides.

“They also have more big-game experience in Croke Park”, continued Canavan.

“It will stand to them as well; the fact that they have played and won a number of games in the Championship there. We know we're in for a very tough battle and there's a good game in the making.”

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph