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Cavan keen to remedy title shortage

By Declan Bogue

Niall McDermott has more reason than most to recall playing Tyrone in finals, as he was an integral part of the Cavan under-21 side that beat the Red Hands in 2011 to land what was their then third title at that level.

As a playmaking citóg in a withdrawn role, the Ballinagh man made his debut in the Ulster Championship a matter of months later, but he soon realised that senior football is an entirely different matter altogether.

Given how his vintage inspired a four-in-a-row of titles at that underage grade, it's fair to say that Cavan are seen by many as the coming team in Ulster.

Tonight, they face Tyrone in the Dr McKenna Cup final. Same opposition as last year, same venue (Athletic Grounds, throw-in at 7.30pm).

Last year, Cavan's promise was appearing to ripen when they led 0-8 to 0-5 approaching half-time, before a sucker punch of a goal from Plunkett Kane. Tyrone eventually ran out winners on a 1-15 to 0-11 scoreline.

The 24-year-old is being honest when he says he and many others carry no baggage into tonight.

"The lads who are a couple of years younger than me have played them a few times and a good few of them are on the panel now. They would have beaten them two or three years in a row," said McDermott.

"I think any final you get to, it is a massive game and you want to win it. Cavan haven't won much at senior level over the last good while, so any final we get to we want to win."

Back at College as a mature student, studying PE at the University of Limerick, McDermott praises the patience of the work in Cavan. The ongoing presence of Terry Hyland on the sidelines has offered him reassurance.

"I have played under Terry from under-21 level. The coaches haven't changed much either. We had Peter Donnelly over us for a couple of years. It is very good for the development of players when you have a familiarity with coaches and managers for a few years, especially when you are breaking into a senior team."

This year, they also have former Mayo player Liam McHale in, who has brought his basketball influences to bear while coaching.

"He's very good with the players," says McDermott. "The ball work is great, most of his training is based around that and everyone seems to be enjoying it and we think he will bring us on a lot."

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