Padraig Faulkner is able to laugh it off, but it seems fittingly melancholic that after the winter of his dreams he wasn't even able to collect his All Star award in person.

Instead the trophy arriving in the post without any fanfare and many miles removed from the usual glitz and glamour of the awards ceremony. His mother signed for it at the door.

It's just been that sort of year.

"My mam collected it - I wasn't there!" he said at AIB's All-Ireland SFC launch.

"She figured it was heavy enough that it had to be it. There was just no fanciness to it this year. That's all that could have been done really. I don't see a more Covid-friendly way of doing it so there was no hard feelings."

The Cavan full-back's outstanding form helped the county to a memorable Ulster SFC success in 2020, but the warm glow of that unexpected glory has chilled.

Cavan suffered a third relegation in a row over the spring as they tumbled down to Division 4 and they now face into a daunting provincial championship quarter-final against Tyrone on Saturday afternoon.

Padraig Faulkner (R) at AIB's All-Ireland SFC launch with Tyrone's Paul Donaghy

The Breffni men have not won a championship match against the Red Hand in 38 years. Defeat this weekend will mean they'll compete in the tier two Tailteann Cup next year.

High stakes then but Faulkner remains pragmatic and optimistic that his team will, at the very least, deliver a much improved display at Healy Park.

"We didn't take the form we had in the 2020 Championships into 2021 but I suppose it was mostly our own doing.

"There was a probably a few factors; the lack of football that was played over lockdown didn't stand to us.

"I know everyone was n that situation but injuries started hurting us throughout the year. We just have to park it and turn our focus ot the championship. That's exactly what we did last year and we got our rewards.

"If we lose to Tyrone is probably one of the worst years in Cavan football history. Last year was such a successful year, I think we just thought, and a lot of the supporters would have thought, that it was going to be done again or it was just going to be a massive progression again. But unfortunately it didn't turn out that way."

For Cavan it's been a hard, swift fall from the high of last November, but they could turn that around with a shock win against Tyrone.

In that regard, it could be the ideal fixture for a team that's had to take a fair bit of criticism over the last few weeks.

"The people that were clapping you on the back last year telling you were the best in Ireland are some of the ones that are telling that you're the worst player on the pitch now!" added Faulkner.

"Anyway you just have to get on with it and look to the future.

"When you look back in five or six years' time, or whenever I stop playing football, it's something that will always stay with me, that the title was won and it was such a privilege to win it.

"Tyrone have always got the upper had on us in the previous championship games.

"Maybe the break from the league will do us good. We can regroup, refocus. It's something that really needs to happen with us coming off that league campaign but we have been going well in training and there has been bite. Maybe the two-week break did do us good."

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