Seán Cavanagh knows that Monaghan are a different prospect now for Tyrone
“They felt a bit, ‘ah, Tyrone have got us and beaten us a few times’, but this time they will be coming as a different animal”
Seán Cavanagh: “It doesn’t get any better than standing at Croke Park on a hot summer’s day.” Photograph: Inpho
Tyrone could do with Brian Dooher, Peter Canavan and Brian McGuigan come Saturday evening. Mickey Harte was adamant they were all visible in the play of Seán Cavanagh as the Moy man produced a stunning performance to see off Meath.
But the aforementioned retired trio are in Valhalla. Instead there’s the new wave of Red Hand footballers like Peter Harte, the Donnellys, Mark and Mattie, and Darren McCurry blending with those who gobbled up All-Ireland medals in the previous decade.
While all that transpired, Monaghan were sitting silently in losing dressing rooms questioning why they were putting themselves through repeated misery. Monaghan, for so long, were the nearly men.
All that changed two Sundays ago when they produced a display of physicality and desire to drop Donegal.
Seasoned campaigners like Cavanagh and Joe McMahon know all about flooring Monaghan in championship, cleaning them out with 10 points to spare in the 2010 Ulster final and by a whisker in the 2007 decider. They come at them now as better pack hunters.
“Their heads are probably in a different position than over the last five, six, seven years,” said Cavanagh.
“They have almost come and played us and thought maybe there was a pecking order. They felt a bit, ‘ah, Tyrone have got us and beaten us a few times’, but this time they will be coming as a different animal.
“I don’t think they will fear us. Doing what they did against Donegal, the All-Ireland champions, I don’t think they will fear too many.”
It might be as simple as tactical superiority. Against Donegal they largely replicated the Donegal system.
“Malachy O’Rourke has been brilliant for them and they’ll have a formula for us. We’ll just have to step our game up another level and forget about games we’ve had with them down through the years.”
“I’m enjoying my football,” said Cavanagh of his return from a long injury lay-off. “In the off season I worked incredibly hard to get my body in the right position because, last year, I was sitting on the sidelines watching the guys.
“Particularly down in Killarney it would have broken your heart. I knew there was good quality in this team and we just couldn’t get it together. Maybe injuries failed us a wee bit last year. You can see some of the new guys have come in, the likes of Mattie Donnelly, young Darren McCurry have come in and done fantastically well. So yeah, there is quality in the squad.
“It’s just great to get back and sitting on the sidelines last year I promised myself that whenever I pulled on a Tyrone jersey I would relish it and that’s what I’m doing at the minute. It doesn’t get any better than standing at Croke Park on a hot summer’s day.”