Derrylin are ready to do the business

Derrylin manager Mickey Cadden

Derrylin manager Mickey Cadden

The compressor rattles merrily in the background as Mickey Cadden take a few minutes to chat football.

He’s working with McGovern Kitchen Design in Derrylin and it’s all go. It makes for a contrast with the last time we spoke, eyes cast to the south Armagh heavens, bursting with the emotion of it all.

It’s a much more businesslike Cadden speaking now. He speaks about training since the victory over St Paul’s, getting everyone back focused. He’s going to take in the Monaghan intermediate league semi-final on Sunday where Inniskeen are taking on Donaghmoyne. He isn’t expecting Inniskeen manager Alan O’Neill to show much of his hand, but he’s hoping to get a feel for a few Grattan’s players. The homework is well in hand, the feelers are out, the videos are being sourced and the plan is beginning to form.

One thing he will get a flavour for is the heat of battle in Monaghan. Club football in the Farney in famously combative and that has seen the county fair well in Ulster, Truagh taking the title last year.

“I know Monaghan football in physically strong,” said Cadden. “But we were up against a tight team on Sunday in St Paul’s, a big strong physical team playing direct football as they do in Armagh. Our team is not that small either. We have seven or eight boys over six foot tall, in around 13,14 stone and good mobility on that weight. We’re not afraid of anybody, but we won’t be taking anybody for granted either.”

While he has a fit, physical side at his disposal, experience is somewhere where Derrylin are less well endowed presently. Donal McAvinue is away in Australia, while the physios are working hard to try and get Kevin McCusker back battle ready. That race will be touch and go. For that reason it is important young men mature quickly, thankfully that is precisely what has happened in the Blackbirds’ championship in 2014.

St Paul’s played a very deep defence in the quarter-final and allowed Derrylin the ball. They turned over the Fermanagh champions repeatedly at the end of the first half and went in at the break with a two point lead. Cadden’s men were able to take stock and fashion a new game plan, and then do it once again in extra-time. It was a testament to real character in this team.

“I said in my address before we even went on the field [against St Paul’s] that it’s about individuals here,” said Cadden. “It’s about every man looking deep within themselves to see what they can contribute to the team.

“To me Mark Murphy had an average enough game last Sunday, compared to his usual high standards and Paddy [Dolan] really came alive in the middle of the field. I’m not saying Mark had a bad game, but Paddy really put himself about for a young fella.

“When we went into extra-time I couldn’t believe how much the young fellas were up for it. We were sitting there with our centre half, our centre full forward all stuck on the bench. But the young lads wanted to finish to finish the business. I thought that was a great attitude from young fellas.”

Now the O’Connell’s have another opportunity to wear the county jersey on the provincial stage. It’s a privilege Cadden doesn’t treat lightly.

“We were proud to wear the county jersey on Sunday, it’s not the same as wearing your own jersey, don’t get me wrong. But any man that steps out in a county jersey would be proud to be wearing it and they hope the Gaels in Fermanagh will support them even more.”

But, as a man once said, you can’t eat flags, and no one knows that better than Mickey Cadden.

“I always look at football in its simplest terms. It’s 15 men against 15 men. The 15 boys that want to try the most will be the ones that achieve the most. They will always come out on top and that’s a simple philosophy as far as I’m concerned. It’s about hard work, fitness and work rate as far as I’m concerned. If fit and you have the work rate you’re always going to be in the hunt.”

Inniskeen might be favourites, but Derrylin have shown themselves to be lions when it comes to championship. Dungannon should brace itself for a real battle royale.