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McGleenan's unexpected exit has left Cavan at a crossroads

 

By John Campbell

When Cavan, somewhat fortuitously, defeated Down in the All-Ireland football qualifiers last month, it was felt that they could nevertheless go on to mount a serious challenge to enter the Super 8s.

After all, they had earlier in the year regained their slot in Division One of the Allianz League under the wise guidance of manager Mattie McGleenan, the former Tyrone player, and optimism abounded that Championship comfort was just round the corner.

But today Cavan football is at a crossroads following the unexpected resignation of McGleenan.

And when the county board meets on Monday night, a priority will now be to seek out a replacement for someone who had achieved a distinct rapport with players, officials and supporters in a success-starved county that must go back to 1997 for its last helping of Ulster title glory.

"Mattie stepping down was a bolt from the blue," admitted county board spokesman Mark O'Rourke. "We knew that we had used up a ration of luck against Down and then when we went into our qualifier against Tyrone we had hoped to attain a higher level of performance. This is what actually happened but it wasn't just enough to see off Mickey Harte's men.

"Now we're back to the drawing board again in having to seek out a new manager, and this won't be the easiest of tasks."

Already former county star Jason O'Reilly, currently manager of the Cavan Gaels club, is being mentioned as a possible successor to McGleenan but the Cavan board is unlikely to rush headlong into making an appointment.

Ironically, the Breffni outfit's qualifier triumph over their Down counterparts was to be the Mourne side's last game under the baton of Eamonn Burns.

The Championship can be an unforgiving arena and as two Ulster counties now seek out new bosses, the demands and pressures associated with the role have once again been starkly highlighted.

Yet there is no rancour in Cavan, no feeling of resentment towards McGleenan.

"Mattie will always be welcome in Cavan and we wish him the very best of luck in the future," said spokesman O'Rourke.

Meanwhile, Derry and Monaghan will meet in the Ulster Minor Football Championship final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh tonight (8pm).

Having already won the provincial Under-20 title, Derry are now keen to add the Under-17 trophy to their collection.

Defender Eunan McElhennon believes that Derry's defeat by Cavan earlier in the Championship served as a wake-up call and will send them into tonight's game with their guard up.

"I think we were looking past Cavan and they caught us on the hop. We maybe believed because we had beaten Monaghan that we had got the hard work done but that wasn't the case at all," said McElhennon.

"That loss to Cavan taught us to take nothing for granted and we will certainly be wary of the challenge that we will face now. Monaghan will have taken comfort from their recent displays and will be hard to beat."

Derry are the reigning Ulster minor champions and have been a dominant force at this level lately under the baton of Damian McErlain, who is now the Oak Leaf senior team boss.

"Derry have made great headway at minor level but we know that this does not guarantee us anything going into this game," added McElhennon.

Elsewhere, Roscommon manager Kevin McStay hasn't hesitated to amend his side for tomorrow's All-Ireland Super 8s tie against Tyrone at Croke Park.

Fintan Cregg and Cathal Compton have been given starting roles as McStay seeks a higher level of overall performance than that which helped to see off Armagh.

Former Mayo player McStay is urging his players to hit a new peak against a Tyrone outfit which has gained in confidence since they survived a major scare against Meath when it took a last-gasp point from Cathal McShane in normal time to earn the extra-time that proved their passport into the next round of the qualifiers.

Should Mickey Harte's side win tomorrow, it will add even more spice to their mouth-watering tie against Dublin next Saturday.

It is expected that tickets will be like gold dust for this match, the biggest that the Red Hands will have hosted for some considerable time.

Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, J McManus, N McInerney; N Daly, F Cregg, C Devaney; T O'Rourke, E Smith; C Murtagh, N Kilroy, C Cregg; D Murtagh, C Compton, D Smith.

Belfast Telegraph

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