There was a sense of inevitability about it as Cavan took the field against Donegal at the Athletic Grounds today in the Ulster football final. Despite the Tir Connell men starting as 10/1 on favourites it was Micky Graham’s Breffni Blues who emerged as winners after a dogged performance to complete a quartet of semi-finalists, the same four as qualified for the All Ireland semis 100 years ago.
Earlier in the day Tipperary turned in a fine performance to overcome the challenge of Cork in a good Munster final while Dublin’s facile victory over Meath last night in the Leinster decider and Mayo’s emergence from Connaught completed the set.
As tens of thousands of candles burned in windows all over Ireland and indeed anywhere in the world where there are Irish communities Jane Boyle, James Burke, Daniel Carroll, Michael Feery, Tom Hogan, Michael Hogan, James Matthews, Patrick O’Dowd, Jerome O’Leary, William (Perry) Robinson, Thomas Ryan, John William (Billy) Scott, James Teehan and Joe Traynor, the 14 victims of that slaughter by the British forces on the 21st November 1920, surely smiled down on Croke Park as the GAA commemorated the Anniversary of their passing.
Cavan manager Micky Graham, captain Raymond Galligan and man of the match Thomas Galligan fought back tears as they told just what this victory meant to them in interviews after the final whistle and I couldn’t help think that we were witnessing something special in a year that certainly has been different.
Cavan’s win over Donegal sets them up with an unenviable pairing with Dublin while Tipperary’s victory over Cork sees them face Mayo in the other semi-final and both Cavan and Tipperary will start as underdogs but in a year when the Breffni men have displayed remarkable resilience and a bag-full of ability, write them off at your own peril!