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Plenty of plus factors for Cavan manager Terry Hyland

By John Campbell

No fewer than five Ulster teams - Tyrone, Derry, Armagh, Fermanagh and Cavan - will be in action in Division Two of the Allianz League next year.

And already there is speculation that this sector could be even more interesting and alluring than Division One.

Cavan manager Terry Hyland, whose side face Roscommon in the All-Ireland qualifiers at Kingspan Brefni Park tomorrow, is one of those who would subscribe to that theory.

Hyland's side retained their place in Division Two this year before falling by a solitary point (0-16 to 0-15) to neighbours Monaghan in the Ulster Championship.

During their league campaign they drew with Roscommon but it was a different story in last year's qualifiers when Roscommon triumphed by 0-16 to 0-5.

Little wonder, then, that Hyland views his team's league form and their courageous and wholehearted championship performance against Monaghan as plus-factors in terms of tomorrow's contest.

This year to date, indeed, has represented a delicate balancing act for the Cavan boss - winning sufficient league games and building towards the championship, while protecting a young squad from escalating demands.

"The bigger counties have that bigger base of players sometimes, which makes it easier for them and that is something we have been trying to form here. Of our panel of 35 players, they are nearly all in third level education so the challenge is to hold on to them all if we can," says Hyland.

Cavan won four Ulster U21 championship titles on the bounce until they were knocked off their perch by Tyrone this year and Hyland has overseen the introduction of a raft of players from that sphere into his senior side.

Michael Argue, Niall Murray, Conor Gilsenan, Feragal Flanagan, Niall McDermott and Jason McLoughlin are among the young guns that have been firing out Cavan's message of defiance but along with their colleagues they will face a searching examination of their skills tomorrow.

Roscommon, having beaten Down in the Division Two final, were expected to cruise past Sligo in the Connacht championship semi-final but instead were bushwhacked by the Yeats County in one of the shocks of the year.

Hyland believes, though, that this will merely add to Roscommon's competitive edge.

"They will be very keen to prove themselves. They beat us in the qualifiers last year and they have played us in the league so they certainly won't fear us," insists Hyland.

His team have been criticised for a defensive strategy but after landing 15 points against Monaghan, manager counters: "If that is being defensive, I will live with it any day."

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