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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK
Cassidy aiming to Down Mournemen
By John Haughey
BBC Sport

Damien Cassidy and Martin McElkennon
Damien Cassidy (left) is assistant to Martin McElkennon (right)
Damien Cassidy starts the conversation by mentioning a piece written by your correspondent seven years ago which didn't meet his satisfaction.

He listens unconvinced to your vague and hazy recollections of events, pointing out that "we don't forget in Bellaghy".

But having said his piece, he moves on in businesslike fashion to the matter of Sunday's Ulster Championship opener against Down at Casement Park.

Cavan assistant-boss Cassidy is facing his second summer of championship action with the county.

His first involvement with this Breffni bunch came days before last year's Ulster Championship opener against Antrim when then acting-manager Martin McElkennon needed a hand because of Eamon Coleman's illness.

"I only came in on the Tuesday night before the Antrim match. So I knew the players and I knew the mentality but I just was there, I suppose, in a consultancy role," Cassidy tells BBC Sport Interactive.

"Overall, I was involved in six or seven matches in the championship last year.

"This year, it emerged in a different way with me being involved from the end of October."

For much of last September and October, the 1993 All-Ireland medallist Cassidy was being linked with the manager's job in his native Derry.

It's not the time to mention it to him this week but one day he surely will take the managerial reins in the Oak Leaf County.

My role is looking at the team and the way the team plays and identifying weaknesses and trying to correct them
Damien Cassidy

But at this point in time, he seems more than happy with his assistant's role in Cavan.

"That's the way we agreed it at the beginning of the year. Within management, there has to be that structure. We do have different roles. There is little point in duplicating."

When asked what he role is, there is a long pause before he ventures a reply.

"My role is looking at the team and the way the team plays and identifying weaknesses and trying to correct them. That's where my expertise lies or is supposed to lie - put it like that."

However, Cassidy has been handed an impossible task in covering up Cavan's biggest weakness this year - which has been the gaps left by a shocking injury-count.

If you didn't laugh you would cry, seems to be Cassidy's motto as he chortles with resignation while trotting out the long list of walking wounded and suspensions.

First of all, Micheal Lyng was ruled out for what is likely to be the whole season by complications following groin and hamstring injuries.

"Then you have Darren Rabbitte who has a cruciate ligament.

"Anthony Forde is suspended. Nicholas Walsh has a broken ankle.

How can a team that beat Westmeath by five points and maybe should have beaten them by eight or nine get beaten by Waterford
Damien Cassidy

"Lorcan Mulvey was our regular midfielder through the National League until he picked up a back injury and he was sent off in the Ulster U21 Championship and he got a three-month suspension as well.

"He definitely would have been in the frame for this weekend because he is a big strong, mobile fellow, particularly with Nicholas gone."

To put the tin hat on it, talented forwards Jason O'Reilly and Larry Reilly are also struggling to make the team sheet because of injuries.

"We're hoping we'll have one of them fit for the match.

"Jason has the better chance at this moment. They are back out training again but they haven't participated fully in a session."

Despite an injury-plagued Spring, the Cavan youngsters pressed into service produced some impressive displays to set them up for seemingly certain promotion with only lowly Waterford to beat in their final Division 2 game on 9 April.

But astonishingly, Cavan suffered a Van de Velde-like collapse that day before a stunned Breffni Park.

Cassidy says complacency gripped the Cavan performance that day despite the management's best efforts before the game.

Jason O'Reilly
Jason O'Reilly (right) is battling to be fit for Sunday's match

"There's no other answer for it. How can a team that beat Westmeath by five points and maybe should have beaten them by eight or nine get beaten by Waterford."

Again, Cassidy adopts a little gallows-like humour when he recalls the mood in the Cavan dressing-room after the Waterford defeat.

"There's been more craic at wakes than I saw in that dressing-room. At that stage, everybody questions what they are doing and why they are doing it given the amount of time and sarcifice that you put into it."

But after all the soul-searching, the Cavan squad had to "bin" the Waterford game and "push on" for Sunday's contest with Down.

Cassidy says that Cavan's well-documented injuries mean that "the ball will be firmly in Down's court".

"Down can paint it whatever way they want it but they are expected to win and if they don't win, question-marks will be placed against them.

"If we win, it will have been a great result and a great day for Cavan. If we lose, we just have played out the script."

Cassidy certainly seems to be learning the cagey Cavan ways.

O'Reilly ruled out for Breffnimen
06 May 06 |  Gaelic Games


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