Seán Cavanagh insists he has never cheated to win a free

Midfielder says Sunday Game analysts wrong to interpret grabbing opponent’s arm as ploy to con referee into giving hima free

Tyrone’s Seán Cavanagh: “I don’t know whether it’s part of the Irish media, whether they’re sometimes happy to go with the negative things rather than the positive things”.Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Tyrone’s Seán Cavanagh: “I don’t know whether it’s part of the Irish media, whether they’re sometimes happy to go with the negative things rather than the positive things”.Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 23:02

He has deliberately pulled down opponents before, has no problem admitting he’d do it again, but Seán Cavanagh insists he is no cheat. Nor does he like The Sunday Game branding him as one.

So he’s come out fighting, again, because this time he believes it is personal. And in a scathing attack on the “negative” tactics of The Sunday Game analysts, Cavanagh has accused them of singling him out for a crime he did not commit.


“It’s disappointing, because it does affect you,” says Cavanagh. “In the days after, your family and friends start telling you stories about people who aren’t that clued in on GAA telling them that, yet again, I’m some bad boy of GAA, always up to these sort of cheating tactics, or something.

“And my wife is a local GP, and she’s coming home to me and saying, ‘Oh, people from all cross sections of the community are complaining about you today again’.

“To me, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Because I don’t see myself as that type of player. And I wouldn’t like to be seen as that type of player. But obviously I’ve been here before, and I’m beginning to feel a little bit like Mario Balotelli.”

The Cavanagh incident highlighted in The Sunday Game came late in Tyrone’s Ulster quarter-final defeat to Monaghan last Sunday, when Cavanagh became entangled with Monaghan’s Darren Hughes: Tyrone won the free, Hughes was blackcarded, and analyst Joe Brolly immediately questioned the incident after RTÉ’s live coverage on The Sunday Game.

“Then of course you had the really dispiriting sight of Seán Cavanagh again. Running into contact, and as soon as he’s touched, he’s on the ground.

“Three times, he’s taken players’ arms under his, pulling them to the ground. It’s very, very unsavoury. It spoils the manliness of the game.”

Fellow analyst Pat Spillane agreed: “There is no doubt about it, he (Cavanagh) goes to ground very, very easily. And certainly Darren Hughes got sent off for a black card, and Darren Hughes didn’t even foul Seán Cavanagh. Seán Cavanagh held Darren Hughes by the hand, and pulled him down.”

Later, on The Sunday Game highlights, analyst Ciarán Whelan also talked over the slow-motion replay of the Cavanagh-Hughes incident, and claimed:

“If we look here, Seán Cavanagh holds his [Hughes’s] forearm, and pulls him straight to the ground . . . This is against the principle of the game, and something that has to be eradicated”.

For Cavanagh, all three analysts were wrong in this interpretation, because he “would never try to cheat to win a free in my life”.

This is not without irony, however, as last week Cavanagh admitted he would deliberately pull down a player - just like he did Monaghan’s Conor McManus in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final – if it meant saving his team from defeat.


“Last year, it was intentional, and I held my hands up and said, ‘Yeah, look, grand, I did it for the benefit of my team’. But on Sunday, and whenever you slow these tackles down to a milli-second, or whatever it is, you can read assumptions into it.

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