Surprise and disappointment likely to greet Graham’s going

The modern GAA world is a strange, confusing, often upsetting place. As this is being written, it’s July 12th and already, as far as can be calculated, close to if not exactly a half dozen inter county managers have vacated their posts.

Yet another consequence of the hideous abomination that is the split season. County teams finished for the year with half of it still to go. Yes, there will be those who will revert to the now well practiced line about the clubs being the be all and end all.

Now, such a mantra is understandable and to some extent true, but it is certainly more applicable if you happen to be attached to one of the ‘Super Clubs’, but for the vast majority it means months with no activity. Anyway, of the county managers that have abdicated so far, undoubtedly the most surprising is that of Mickey Graham from his Cavan post.

If for no other reason than the fact that earlier this year the Cavan Gaels clubman guided the Breffni County to yet another National League promotion. To sit alongside a first Ulster title in 23 years, during the Covid-wrecked season in 2020.

Of course, the former corner forward – who attained provincial honours at U-21 and Senior level as a player – served his managerial apprenticeship with his native county’s U-21 team and the very successful Longford club side St Columba’s. Who, during Graham’s tenure in charge, took the notable scalp of Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster Club Championship.

For reasons that I can never really figure out, I’ve always held at the very least a passing interest in the fortunes of the blue and white. Maybe it was down to the fact that Alan Browne – a cousin of former Cavan star Fintan Cahill – was a classmate in school.

Whatever the reason, the one seeing eye was often cast in their direction and players like Peter and Larry Reilly, Anthony Forde, Graham himself and – in particular – Dermot McCabe became firm favourites with yours truly.

The Gowna native was one of the finest midfielders of his time – being a pivotal part of the lifting of the Anglo Celt Cup in 1997 but was probably unfortunate to be at his peak during a golden era for bastions of the sky with the likes of Anthony Tohill, Paul McGrane, Sean Cavanagh and, outside of Ulster, Darragh O’Se at their peak.

When his playing days had concluded, it was always an inevitability that he would progress into management. Where he last term was central to guiding his own people to another county title. Given his profile and the esteem in which he is held within the Breffni County, he will most likely be linked to the job.

For now though, you suspect it will take a while for news of Graham’s departure to sink in.

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