Expectations for Cavan football in Division 1

Cavan host Dublin in the opening round of the Allianz NFL this weekend

Expectations for Cavan football in Division 1

©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Alan O'Mara believes that the prospect of playing Division 1 football presents a 'fantastic challenge' for the Cavan football team.

A successful Division 2 campaign in 2016 earned them promotion this year, with a tricky assignment against Dublin in the opening round this Sunday in Kingspan Breffni Park (Throw-In 2pm)

The Cavan goalkeeper, who is currently on a break from the inter-county squad, says that hosting the All-Ireland champions is a great opportunity for Cavan to test themselves against the top contenders in gaelic football.

"It's a brilliant challenge for Cavan to have - the All-Ireland champions rolling down for the first league game. On the one side, it’s a good chance to try and catch them a little bit cold. The Dubs have obviously been away and they've had holidays and they probably started back training a little bit later maybe.

Conor Moynagh challenging Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly during the 2016 Division 2 final.

"The flip side to that is you also see the strength and depth that they have, in terms of the panel that won the O'Byrne Cup. I know some media outlets have been calling them a third-string team but the large majority of that team would get playing for an awful lot of other county teams."

He added: "At the end of the day, Dublin is Dublin, it's a fantastic challenge. Cavan are going about their business. They will want to play a little bit differently to what they have done over the past couple of years.

"In terms of rising to the challenge, Dublin at home is what you want when you're slogging away in lower divisions and getting promotion from Division 3 to Division 2. You do that with the intention of playing the likes of Dublin. For me, as a player and a supporter, there's no better way to kick off the campaign."

"Because it’s the first league game, it's a step into the unknown and it's hard to know what type of team Jim [Gavin] will put out and what the blend will be between the O’Byrne Cup panel and the lads coming back in."

Cavan face into this league campaign under new management after Mattie McGlennan succeeded Terry Hyland. O'Mara was involved with the Cavan panel at the beginning of the year and came away with a positive review of McGlennan's training approaches.

Terry Hyland alongside Cavan's Cian Mackey after their defeat to Derry in the 2016 All-Ireland Championship qualifiers.

He believes that while Hyland initiated significant progress in Cavan football, the time is right for a new appointment.

"Mattie has come in and has certainly tried to put a stamp on things. He's a very positive man, he's got probably a few different ideas on football to how we've been playing the last number of years. He's challenging the lads to think differently and probably to play football more on the front foot.

"Cavan are going in to play Division 1 football for the first time in quite a while. There's gonna be some tests and big challenges and it's gonna be interesting for the group to see how to navigate those and how they learn, because as a group, they will have to learn quickly to maintain that Division 1 status.

"Terry was there for a number of years and did a really, really good job in terms of putting a really solid foundation in place and getting us up the divisions. My first season in the panel was maybe 2010 or 2011 and we avoided relegation to Division 4 by a freak result.

Image: Cavan's Gerard Smith in possession against Tiernan McCann of Tyrone in the Dr McKenna Cup.

"Things have changed quite quickly in terms of climbing up those divisions. I think Mattie has come in at the right time to just re-energize it and freshen things up a little bit."

Looking beyond the Round 1 clash with Dublin, O'Mara believes that Cavan's overall objective for the league, is to preserve their top division status for next year.

"I think realistically and being brutally honest about it, it's just about maintaining that status and playing at that level more regularly. Having been involved over the last number of years and I know the lads really well. A huge volume of work has been done to get us to Division 1 but the ironic thing is, the hard work is only beginning as well.

"There's no point shirking it, it's gonna be difficult but Cavan have the players there to compete and to take a few scalps along the way. It's gonna be very interesting to see. With new management, there will be a slightly different way of playing and an emphasis on different things. It's gonna be interesting to see how the panel react to that and cope with that."

26-year-old O'Mara decided to temporarily withdraw from the Cavan panel two weeks ago, to concentrate on developing his business 'Real Talks.'