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Martin Reilly has no regrets as he follows mate Kyle Lafferty at Euros

By John Campbell

Northern Ireland ace Kyle Lafferty and Republic of Ireland duo Darren Randolph and Shane Long will be the recipients of goodwill messages from a rather unexpected source before their teams go into action against Ukraine and Belgium.

Cavan wing-forward Martin Reilly will take time out from his preparations for Sunday's Ulster championship semi-final against Tyrone at Clones to send his support to the three players who are his former team-mates from another code.

Reilly and Lafferty struck up an affinity when they were with Burnley a decade ago, while the Breffni county dynamo also played for the Republic of Ireland at under-age level with Randolph and Long when they were starting out on their careers.

While Reilly does not regret the decision he took some nine years ago to return home and resurrect his gaelic football career, he has continued to follow the fortunes of his former colleagues, at home and abroad.

And while they bid for Euro glory, 29-year-old Reilly is happy to content himself with the Quinn Building Products Ulster GAA Writers' merit award he has just won following his superb performance in his team's Ulster Championship quarter-final win over Armagh.

Reilly, an electrical engineer, also has electricity in his heels as he continues to prove one of the fastest and most industrious runners on the GAA scene this year.

"I think maybe the training that I did as a full-time soccer player is standing to me nowadays although I am getting no younger," smiles the unassuming Reilly.

"Obviously it was a big decision to have to forgo the chance of making headway in soccer but I have had a very fulfilled life since then. I am absolutely delighted to be part of the current Cavan side, the best panel of players I believe to represent the county in a long time."

"I still like to see my old buddies do well on the soccer scene and I am hoping that maybe Kyle can put one or two in the net against Ukraine tonight and that Darren and Shane will get a further opportunity to show the real quality they possess against Belgium on Saturday."

"These are massive matches for both Northern Ireland and the Republic and naturally they will be the focus of everyone's attention before we get down to business ourselves on Sunday."

Cavan have not won the Ulster title since 1997 when Martin McHugh delivered the Anglo Celt Cup to the county and Reilly is keen to see the wait for another provincial crown brought to an end.

"We have had to be patient in Cavan but when you look at it, there are four teams left in the Ulster race and, quite honestly, any one of them could win the title," insists Reilly.

"We were beaten by Tyrone in the Division Two final recently but we like to think that we have absorbed lessons from that game. They are a very experienced side, they were in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry last year and I am told that they have not lost a game since December."

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is expected to confirm his side tonight and he may well decide to give a vote of confidence to the line-up that performed so impressively in disposing of Derry at the quarter-final stage.

However, Darren McCurry could muscle his way in to book a starting place following his impressive display as a substitute against the Oak Leaf side.

Padraig McNulty, Jonathan Munroe and Padraig Hampsey are others who will eye game time against the Breffni county.

Belfast Telegraph

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