Carr has to get it right this time out
When Cavan club delegates returned a firm ‘no confidence’ vote in football team boss Tommy Carr at a county board meeting towards the end of last year his term at the helm looked to have come to a sudden end.
Cavan had been surprisingly beaten by Antrim in the Ulster championship semi-final at Clones and then exited the All Ireland qualifier series when they were beaten by Wicklow, defeats that sparked disappointment, frustration and anger throughout Breffni territory.
Yet former Dublin All Ireland winning captain Carr somehow managed to cling onto his job, citing the support of his players as the chief reason for the remarkable manner in which he survived.
Now, after a National League campaign during which Cavan ploughed an undistinguished course through Division Three, Carr faces the biggest test of his managerial career when his side clash with Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship quarter-final at Breffni Park tomorrow.
And even though his team stunned the Ernesiders in the corresponding match last year, Carr knows better than anyone that this is very much water under the bridge.
“Obviously I came under a lot of pressure after we went out of the Championship last year but I always felt that I had the support of the dressing-room,” said Carr.
“I know Cavan is a proud football county — that’s why I took the job in the first place, after all — and that people were hurting. But we have to put that firmly in the past and our whole focus is now on getting the right result tomorrow.”
Courteous and articulate, the Navan-based businessman is acutely aware of the burning desire within Cavan to see an Ulster title return for the first time since 1997.
“We feel there is now a blend and a balance within the side that could bring progress,” he said.
“We have had the opportunity to take stock of the other sides to date and there have been some fine performances so we know what we have to do.”
He has a full squad available to him tomorrow — a rare luxury — and believes that the fusion of pace, power and skill within the side will pose problems for a Fermanagh side that slumped into Division Four of the league just a matter of weeks ago. Carr plays down the fact that his side will have home advantage for what could be a seminal contest for him personally given the events of the latter end of last year.
“In the first three matches in the Ulster Championship Armagh, Tyrone and Down were away winners against Derry, Antrim and Donegal so what does that tell you?” he said. “No, I don’t think we will be deriving any false comfort just because the match is being played in Kingspan Breffni Park. We have no more right to win this game than any other game.”
The return of Seanie Johnston, the superb form being shown by the versatile Cian Mackey, Ronan Flanagan’s cultured invention and the experience provided by Nicholas Walsh are among the plus-factors that help spawn Cavan’s confidence for the tie.