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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 18 May 2021

Graham: Balancing Cavan and Mullinalaghta jobs was 'mentally tough'

Mickey Graham had a hectic start to 2019 as he combined club and county roles.

Cavan manager Mickey Graham.
Cavan manager Mickey Graham.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CAVAN BOSS MICKEY Graham earns his living as a sales rep with Coca Cola, which brings him into contact with the Breffni public on a daily basis.

That can be a good or bad thing, depending on how the county side have fared the previous weekend.

Cavan are facing the drop from Division 1 for the second time in three years but can take heart from a string of decent performances that saw them beat Roscommon and lose to Galway, Kerry and Monaghan by a single score.

It hasn’t spared Graham from the local experts.

“Every Monday morning, there’s plenty of lads giving me advice, let me tell you – win or lose,” he laughs.

“That’s part and parcel of it. You have to take everything. People in Cavan are passionate about Cavan football. It’s a hugely traditional county for football. 95% of Cavan people have genuine football at heart.

Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. It challenging times on a Monday morning when you’re travelling around Cavan and lads are telling what you need to be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing.

“Everyone has an opinion and you have to let them at it,” he adds.

Cavan head into the final round of Division 1 fixtures knowing they’ll be relegated barring an extremely unlikely sequence of results on Sunday.

They face a Dublin side hurting from their third defeat in six games and could find themselves on the receiving end of a backlash from Jim Gavin’s men.

“There are no handy ones in Division 1. They’re all tough and I suppose this is the toughest one of them all this Sunday. But look it, all you can do is go out and look for a performance from ourselves.

“Dublin will probably be looking for the same themselves before the league wraps up, they’ll be looking for a big performance before start putting the head down for the championship.”

Jim Gavin Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Graham is only a number of months into his tenure in charge of the county and accepts it will take time for the players to adapt to his methods.

Back in January, he said things will “get worse before they get better” and he stands by those remarks two months into the job.

“When you’re a new manager, you’re looking to bring new ideas and players just don’t catch onto them straight away. You’re trying to bring a different concept to the thing.

“For the first month or two – even up until now – players are still trying to get their heads around what they want. It takes time, it doesn’t happen straight away.

“We’re doing it at times, we’re just not doing it consistently enough. When we do start doing it consistently enough and players do start to feel what we need to do, then you’ll see better performances coming. I firmly believe that will happen.

We’re doing a lot of stuff right. It’s about doing it for longer periods in the game. It’s just that players forget about the things we’ve worked on at times and go back to type. It’s about coming back in and doing what we want them to do.”

Of course, Graham’s start to life as an inter-county manager was complicated by Mullinalaghta’s run to the All-Ireland club semi-finals. He admits juggling both roles was mentally taxing.

“I’m not going to lie it was very busy and hectic but we managed. Both Cavan and Mullinalaghta were accommodating as regards training and stuff. Nobody was left out in the dark as the fella says.

“Both were looked after as well as they could be. There was a great understanding between both. The good thing about Mullinalaghta was they train in Cavan so it was great for me.

“They actually trained in Breffni Park because they wouldn’t have the facilities up in Longford.

Mickey Graham celebrates at the final whistle Mullinalaghta manager Mickey Graham celebrates their Leinster club win. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“Any manager will tell you now, a lot of management now is man-management. You’re trying to keep 38 players on an inter-county squad happy and then you’re trying to keep another 25 lads in another panel happy.

“A lot of it is one-to-one on the phone every day and you could spend the day talking to players individually on what you’re looking for.

“It definitely was mentally tough but it was a great period of my career and it’s one I’ll never forgot and one I’m thankful for.”

The Longford champions were a tightknit bunch and while Graham would like to foster a similar closeness in the Cavan set-up, he admits it’s more difficult to achieve at inter-county level.

“I’m a big believer that to be successful in any sport you need a group of players all going in the one direction and that they’ll play for each other and back each other up.

“It’s harder to do at inter-county because you’ve lads coming from different backgrounds and different clubs and playing together for the first time.

Conor Madden dejected after the game Cavan player Conor Madden. Source: John McVitty/INPHO

“Whereas in Mullinalaghta you had seven sets of brothers that all grew up together. Two or three of them had big farms and nearly the whole lot of them worked on the two farms so they would have spent every summer since they were 13 or 14 working together never mind playing football together.

“It’s a team spirit that I never seen before. It was unique and it would be very hard to see something like that again anywhere you go.”

After this weekend, Cavan’s next competitive game is the Ulster SFC quarter-final against Monaghan on 18 May.

Graham will release his players to the clubs for the entire month of April while their load will be monitored by his medical personnel. Interestingly, it’s a period when Cavan have lost a number of players to injuries in recent seasons.

“The players will go back to the clubs for the whole month and they’ll be given programmes to work on themselves,” he says.

Our medical team will have them monitored after every weekend because looking back on the last number of years and talking to the medical staff and the players themselves, the month of April was when Cavan picked up the most injuries.

“Because they were doing different types of training with the club that they were doing with the county and the body wasn’t prepared or it was overloaded.

0030 At Cavan GAA's Win The Dream in Dublin 15 Fundraiser for the Cavan GAA Polo Grounds Centre of excellence are Mickey Graham, Andrea O'Reilly, John Horan (Uachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas Gael), Gerry Brady (Cavan GAA Chairman) Diarmaid Carney and Raymond Galligan. Source: Adrian Donohoe Photography. 086 3716199

“So it’s about communication with the club managers now and making sure we get the balance right so that lads aren’t getting flogged or given heavy running sessions to do because they’ve all that work already done.

You have to strike the right balance. It’s about communication. We just have to work with the clubs and they have to work with us and trust that we have the players’ best interests at heart.

“I’m a big believer in lettering the players go and play with their clubs. Football brings on confidence, especially lads who may be on the periphery of the panel that had not got game time. It’s huge for them and an opportunity for them to put their hand up and say, ‘You know what, I can offer something here.’

“The lads that have played every game, you have to manage their workload and make sure they don’t overdo it.”

Mickey Graham was speaking at Cavan GAA’s ‘Win The Dream in Dublin 15’ fundraiser for the Polo Grounds Centre of Excellence. To enter visit

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