Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
INPHO/Donall Farmer Captains Colin Forde of Galway and Georaid McKiernan of Cavan at Croke Park.
# Young Guns
Different wavelength: Breffni County tuned in as county on brink of All-Ireland victory
Thousands from Cavan will throng Croke Park this Sunday as the county bid to see off Galway and claim a much-anticipated national U-21 crown.

TO REGULAR OFF the Ball listeners, the news that we are big fans of the Roscommon minor All-Ireland victory of 2006 is no major surprise.

We’ve played the final moments of Shannonside FM’s commentary on the replayed final against Kerry on numerous occasions, and while there might be a small element of playing it for laughs (ok, a large element), it remains a pretty potent reminder of how much an under-age success means to a county.

That minor team became a beacon of hope for a county that are daft for football, but have had precious little to shout about for years.  There’s a great clip on YouTube, which combines that Shannonside commentary with RTÉ television’s pictures, and also includes, for me, the best pitchside interview ever conducted… (judge for yourself below)…

But for Roscommon five years ago, read the Cavan Under-21s 2011.

There is talk of 20,000 or 25,000 supporters coming to Croke Park on Sunday for their final against Galway, which of course is a curtain-raiser for the National Hurling League final.  They brought 10,000 to the semi-final against Wexford so… population of Cavan (52,790 according to the internet) bedamned!  25,000 it is.

There is no doubt the people of Cavan have taken this team to their bosom – from their Ulster final victory over Tyrone on a Wednesday night three weeks ago, to that semi-final win over Wexford less than 72 hours later in Dublin, they’ve attracted massive support.

It’s an indication of the support lying dormant in a county like Cavan, who were aristocrats of the game of course throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s but have had known many more bad days than good in the intervening years.

Finding a place for itself on the GAA calendar has been a struggle for the Under-21 championship but the great thing about its current schedule is that it’s very easy to gain momentum.  There’s a game pretty much every week or 10 days, so if you win, and keep winning, you find yourself very quickly picking up steam.

So it has been with Cavan and they now find themselves within 60 minutes of a success that would be their first at any grade (senior, minor or U-21) since 1952.  And we talk about poor old Mayo!  In their defence, Mayo have won four Under-21 All-Irelands and five minor titles since 1952 – I suppose their biggest crime has been to be NEARLY good enough at senior level in the intervening years.  Cavan haven’t even had that luxury.

Rebel yell

After that semi-final win in Parnell Park against Wexford, they were no doubt waiting around in trepidation to hear what indignities Cork had visited upon Galway in the other semi-final.

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Cork had, of course, humiliated Kerry in the Munster final, winning by the scarcely believable scoreline of 2-24 to 0-8, and Galway were the next sacrificial lambs being offered up by the GAA druids on the altar of Cork’s relentless excellence.

Only it didn’t quite work out like that – Galway were immense in defeating Cork by 1-11 to 0-12, and hence they assume the mantle of favouritism ahead of Sunday.  Both sides are unchanged from those semi-final wins, with Cavan looking again to midfielder and captain Gearoid McKiernan for inspiration.

Galway were in desperate need of a boost like this after their rather dismal displays in the national league, but there’s no doubt whose need is greater going into Sunday.  And Northern Sound commentators, you have been warned… we’ll be listening.

Ciaran Murphy is producer of Off The Ball sports show on Newstalk 106