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Cavan heroes determined to end Croke Park exile

By Declan Bogue

Over the last number of decades, Croke Park has become a remote location for Cavan followers. They were there in 1997 for a nostalgic All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry, and a few years back for an All-Ireland under-21 final. But other than that ...

Cavan midfielder David Givney has only played there once – earlier in the year for Ulster's Inter-provincial win – but he admits that getting there with his county would be sweet.

"Our aim is to be in Croke Park at the business end of the year and we are on track to do that," he said after their impressive seven-point win over Fermanagh on Saturday night. "As nice as it was to play there with Ulster," he added, "it would mean a lot more to play there for your home county."

In order to get into round three of the qualifiers, Cavan had to bury their disappointment of losing an Ulster semi-final against Monaghan. But as Givney says, this group of players are too young and innocent to be thinking in terms of 'Ulster or nothing'.

"The Monaghan one was a hard one to take but we know it was far from over. These boys, the young boys coming on, are all winners and they don't know when to give up. We knew if we lost to Monaghan we were always going to bounce back, we are a young team and we want to be in Croke Park at the business end of the year.

"A lot of teams go for Ulster or bust, but what we need is a good run, be it in the Ulster Championship or the qualifiers."

That view says something for the change in attitude in Cavan, something that Givney directly addresses when he muses: "Two or three years ago when Cavan got knocked out of the Ulster Championship you would have seen two or three boys heading to the States and that. It's not the case now. We are all very close-knit, especially from playing under-21 and committed to the ranks. We want to achieve and we are going the right way about it."

He admits there was a bit of dread after Fermanagh came out of the hat to play them, but they were also bolstered by the confidence of having already ushered them out the door of the Ulster Championship. He says: "We knew that we beat them before and if we brought that workrate and intensity that we would be there or thereabouts."

On a night when the ball was broken almost every time from kickouts, Givney still managed to catch cleanly three times in the first half, turning the screw on their guests.

At half-time a bust-up between the sides developed and on a hot night it was time for cool heads. In the Cavan dressing room at the interval, calm words were uttered.

"It was basically, 'keep the heads...stick to your gameplan'. We knew that if we kept going the way we were going then we were going to be on the right side of it at the end," Givney said.

He walked off to the strains of a large group of Spanish exchange students singing their new heroes off the pitch.

Givney said: "It's a great boost and you can see the support coming back to the county."

There is more in the tank, he maintains. On Monday morning he will be probably "glued to the telly" to see who they are paired with for round three.

And should they get to Croke Park, he reckons he might just rethink his trademark loud, lime-green football boots.

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