The Breffni county is home to one of Irelands best supported and competitive club football championships. In 2019 Castlerahan became the first club in 10 years to successfully retain the Oliver Plunkett Cup, such was the competitive nature of the competition. Cavan Gaels undoubtedly dominated the noughties, collecting 7 titles in 10 years, but no one team has been able to establish themselves as the kingpins of Cavan football since.
Set with the unenviable task of selecting the best XV in Cavan club football since the millennium we signed up former Cavan great and Cuchaillains stalwart Ronan Carolan, Gowna’s Mark McKeever, a championship winner in 2000, and the inimitable Cian Mackey, fresh from winning a “double-double” with Castlerahan. After some close calls, they settled on their best team, let’s see who they chose!
Eamonn Brady was selected as our No.1 . Eamonn initially won 3 titles at Senior level with Mullahoran, before transferring to Ballyhaise where he had a fairy tale ending to his career, capturing the Intermediate title alongside his son David.
Honourable Mentions: Darragh McCarthy (Ballinagh), Jamie Leahy (Castlerahan), James Farrelly (Kingscourt)
Full Back Line:
Seanie Smith from Mullahoran was the first name on our list here, having kept many of Cavan’s best marksmen under wraps during his career. Cathal Collins was selected at no.3. A versatile defender, Collins was a major player in the glory years for Cavan Gaels. Eamonn “Chesty” Reilly completed the full back line, Eamonn was one of the main driving forces behind Cavan Gaels dominance of the noughties.
Honourable Mentions: Padraig Faulkner (Kingscourt), Barry McGahan (Cootehill) , Padraig Cahill (Killygarry),
Half Back Line:
Mark McKeever has been one of the standout players in Cavan of the last 20 years. Having played across the entire 20 years and still going strong, Mark has been the heartbeat of the Gowna team since breaking onto the scene in 1999. Alan “Toastie” Clarke was chosen at no.6. An intimidating presence at centre half, Toastie has been a leader throughout his career, captaining Kingscourt to multiple county titles. Anthony Forde’s arrival transformed Cavan Gaels into serial winners as they captured 10 of the last 20 titles available in Cavan.
Honourable Mentions: Martin Cahill (Denn), Trevor Crowe (Lacken), John McCutcheon (Cootehill), Paul Smith (Castlerahan)
Dermot McCabe dominated the noughties for Gowna, appearing in 4 finals and driving his team across the line time and time again. Dermot’s ability to score from range and dominate the aerial battles ensured Gowna remained one of Cavan’s top teams for much of the noughties. Alongside him was another colossus, Padraic “Podge” O’Reilly from Ballinagh. Podge gave a tour-de-force in 2013 leading Ballinagh to an unlikely Senior Championship. And was also a key part of Ballinaghs 2006 Ulster Intermediate winning side.
Honourable Mentions: Enda King (Cavan Gaels), Christy Shiels (Mullahoran), Pierce McKenna (Kill)
Despite his protests, we had to include Cian Mackey (Castlerahan) in our half-forward line. Cian has been electric for Castlerahan as they secured back to back league and championship double’s after many years of heartbreak. The most hotly debated position on the team was the centre forward role. Michael Lyng (Cavan Gaels) won the race, having transitioned from an exciting explosive attacker early in his career, to a playmaking role as his career progressed. Mickey’s ability to reinvent himself meant he just pipped Barry Reilly (Kingscourt) for our no.11 shirt. Ronan Flanagan (Castlerahan) could have been chosen in any number of positions but done his best work out around the middle over the years. Ronan led Castlerahan to their first ever title, and has been one of the most consistent footballers in Cavan for the last 20 years.
Honourable Mentions: Barry Reilly (Kingscourt) Niall McDermott (Ballinagh), Keith Fannin (Drumgoon)
Seanie Johnston’s (Cavan Gaels) position in the full forward line wasn’t even up for debate. With 10 Senior Championships to his name, Seanie has proven to be one of , if not the best attacker in Cavan football of the last 20 years and went straight in top of the left. There was some arguments over which “Gunner” to select at full forward with Paul, Phillip and Danny all featuring in the debate (Sorry Padraig!). Paul got the nod here, with our panel acknowledging him as one of the best footballers in Cavan of the last 20 years. The final position was filled by Gerald Pearson, a “shoe in” according to our panel. Gerald is one of the few players to win a “Man of the Match” award despite being on the losing side in a county final (2007), and has caused panic in defences across the county for the last 20 years.
Honourable Mentions: Jason Reilly (Belturbet), Philip Brady (Mullahoran), Larry Reilly (Knockbride)
Cavan Club XV 2000-2020
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