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Cavan carry no baggage into decider, says Graham

Big threat: Cavan boss Mickey Graham has taken plenty of notes on Michael Murphy, who can inspire reigning Ulster champions Donegal in Sunday’s final
Big threat: Cavan boss Mickey Graham has taken plenty of notes on Michael Murphy, who can inspire reigning Ulster champions Donegal in Sunday’s final
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Cavan manager Mickey Graham believes his team go into Sunday's Ulster Senior Football Championship final against Donegal with a marked advantage - and insists that proof of this is evidenced by their birth certificates.

When the county last took delivery of the provincial title in 1997, many of the current squad had not been born while others were still in nappies.

So given that his team will not be carrying any measure of hurt from previous deciders into the confrontation with Declan Bonner's side, who will be hoping to make it back-to-back titles, Graham is optimistic that they will offer an inspirational performance which might transport them into the history books.

"These players have no memories of disappointing Ulster finals. This final appearance has been a long time coming - in fact, it's far too long for a county with Cavan's tradition," stated Graham.

"We felt following our draw with Armagh it was going to be a question of getting our bodies as fresh as possible. We were disappointed with certain aspects of our play in the drawn game and in the build-up to the replay we probably did more talking than anything else in terms of preparation."

That discourse certainly paid handsome dividends as the Breffni side roared down the home straight to overcome Armagh by 0-23 to 0-17, the scoreline reflecting their ability to pick off a point in almost every third minute of the contest.

It's unlikely that Graham's gung-ho warriors will be afforded a similar opportunity on Sunday against a Donegal defensive system that Tyrone found suffocating for the most part before their late ration of points tended to give the final score a rather flattering aspect from their perspective.

"I feel the important thing is that in the replay against Armagh we did things more quickly," pointed out Graham. "Donegal really blew Tyrone away in their semi-final and we are under no illusions about what we face."

Cavan may have ultimately encountered relegation from Division One of the league but the experience gained in playing against the elite sides during the early part of the year can now prove a buffer when the heat is on.

"The league was a hard learning curve for us but while we took it on the chin we knew we were heading in the right direction," revealed Graham.

"Maybe our composure and game management weren't there but these are elements we have absorbed."

His Donegal counterpart Bonner may have seen his team's semi-final triumph over Tyrone occasion euphoria within the county but even in the immediate aftermath of the game, the manager was making it clear that there was still work to be done.

"While I thought we played really well in the first half against Tyrone, I felt we could well have conceded a couple of goals and that would not have helped us," reflected Bonner.

"But having said that, I thought we took really good scores."

Bonner believes that his posse of veterans - Michael Murphy, Leo McLoone, Patrick McBrearty, Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn, Ryan McHugh and Paddy McGrath - can combine the leadership that he feels will be required.

"We knew after the Tyrone game that improvements were needed in our play and we like to think we have worked on these," said Bonner.

"We have players on the bench who we feel can come in and do a good job for us if and when required and that is encouraging."

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