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Mark McKeever is demanding Cavan players show their grit

By Declan Bogue

While much is being made of Cavan's change of management at the end of the National League, one of their longest-serving players has urged his team-mates that the time to stand up and be counted comes this Sunday against Donegal.

Since making his debut as a teenager, Mark McKeever has played under Eamonn Coleman, Martin McElkennon, Donal Keogan, Tommy Carr, Val Andrews and now Terry Hyland. He knows time is running out for Cavan to win silverware.

“Every manager that took Cavan has improved us,” he said.

“And now the players have to take the thing on a bit more. I think we have seen that. There is going to be a spotlight on them and players have to step up now.

“Hopefully we will start to perform, because it’s no good different managers coming in here year after year, adding stuff and us not taking it on board.”

With Donegal rolling into town, the mood among Cavan followers is one of gloomy pessimism.

Memories of last years' heavy defeat are still fresh in the mind and McKeever, who appeared as a substitute that day, described how hard it can be to play against the meanest defence in the game.

“Their intensity was amazing; you didn’t know what was coming because it was such a changed team from the year before,” he said.

“Maybe it was the way they were set up, but until you see it you probably don’t believe that it was going to be as defensive as it was.

“It is very hard to play against it and when you play against the level of intensity they play it at, it’s hard to do anything about it.”

The effectiveness of Donegal's gameplan in the opening stages of the Championship was forgotten about as the debate shifted to the aesthetics of their approach.

Now, everyone is aware of what they bring and McKeever makes the point that Cavan have known they were to face Donegal since the draw was made in October.

“Everyone didn’t realise how hard it was to play against or how to break it down,” he says.

“But now there has been a bit of time to look at it and who you play next in Championship football is such a massive part of how you train and prepare.

“All you have when the Championship gets underway is two or three weeks to prepare, but we have had a bit of time here. We know what to expect and how they will play.”

While Cavan have been fine-tuning their tactics to counteract their opponents, they have welcomed Anthony Forde as their new trainer.

A former Cavan captain himself, Forde has been earmarked for a role within the senior set-up almost from the moment he finished his playing career.

“I have a lot of respect for Anthony,” says McKeever. “As a player, he trained hard and he puts the same amount of work into it now.

“Everyone sees him and they respect him straight away, he doesn’t even have to demand respect.

“There are a few players over the last 10 or 15 years that have done so much for Cavan football that you have to respect them” he continues.

“I know they are trying to help us along and I know they have been in situations before and have seen all of this.

“Anything they say, especially to the younger players, you know they are going to take that on board, because they gave 10 or 12 years to the thing themselves.”

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