Curve Ball: Breffni boys will want to silence the Lilies
IF recent form graphs are anything to go by, there won't be traffic gridlock in Cavan town on Saturday evening as a convoy of 'KE' reg cars crawl towards Kingspan Breffni Park. There won't be 14,558 paying customers inside the turnstiles either.
When our two Division Two combatants comprise one side which can't score a goal for love nor money, and another that can't buy a win … well, let's just say there isn't much encouragement to swap armchair-viewing (via Setanta) for the real thing. If you even tune in.
Less than three years ago, though, Cavan/Kildare was box-office news - for one Sunday afternoon in mid-July, 2012, when the Seánie Johnston Transfer Circus reached a climax-of-sorts. This was the day an ex-Cavan footballer made his long-anticipated and furiously-debated Kildare debut against … Cavan, who else?
The match itself was a damp squib - Kildare 3-20 Cavan 1-9 - one that merely underlined the winners' reputation as flat-track qualifier bullies.
Since then, Cavan have improved, in a fashion - they reached the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-finals and gained promotion from Division Three last season.
But their uber-defensive orientation has been a turn-off for many, compounded by the ongoing struggles of a forward line which has gone seven hours and 12 minutes since last registering a league goal. No wonder, then, that the local media was speculating, a couple of months back, on the possibility of Terry Hyland recalling a certain ex-Cavan/former Kildare forward.
Still, for all you carping Cavan fans, it could be worse. Your team has three points entering tomorrow's clash; Kildare, contrary to all pre-league predictions, are still pointless.
But while league points will be the primary motivator, there is also the Seánie sub-plot. Curve Ball has no desire to regurgitate all the claims and counter-claims of that transfer saga, but it did leave a certain bad blood between the counties. The chant 'Seánie is a Lily', heard at Breffni that day, still resonates.
This column yesterday spoke to Andriú Mac Lochlainn, who marked Johnson when he was Cavan's premier marksman and later shared the same dressing-room, and he retains the belief that Johnston's transfer application was "extremely badly handled by Croke Park".
"There would have been a lot of mixed messages out there, and a lot of Cavan people - and Kildare people - with misinformation and having a bad understanding of the situation," he maintains. "There were other individuals who moved from counties that year who were of as high a calibre - and there wasn't a whisper about it."
Mac Lochlainn expects the memory of that 2012 qualifier to have some kind of impact tomorrow night. A close observer of the Cavan GAA scene concurs, and suggests Johnston's "biggest mistake" was to crown his ten-minute cameo by taking the free that landed Kildare's final point.
"He came on and kind of rubbed people's noses in it," our source recalls. "I have heard a few people saying it would be great to beat them. They really sickened Cavan that day."
Only one way to cure that, eh?
He (Seánie Johnston) came on and kind of rubbed people's noses in it.