Cavanagh not too annoyed by Tyrone’s ‘morale-boosting loss’ in league final

Dublin just came out ahead but the Ulster side found plenty of positives in defeat

When the one great scorer comes to write against the names of the current Tyrone squad, nobody is going to spend much time checking to see if they won the 2013 Allianz League.

And so much and all as it stung to watch from the middle of the pitch as Stephen Cluxton fought his way through the victory speech on Sunday, Seán Cavanagh et al won’t dwell on it too long. They went for a recovery session last night and from this day forth, nothing exists but Donegal on May 26th.

They all but mugged the league's best team and they did it without Stephen O'Neill and Peter Harte. They threw the burden onto Mark and Matthew Donnelly and Conor McAliskey and it was very nearly enough. For Cavanagh, there was no great need to fluff the egos of the younger players. They had come to Dublin for a title, not for empty praise.

Morale boosting
"I suppose that is a positive [that the younger players showed well] but we probably knew that. We came down here for the regular league game and even though Dublin were missing a few key men, we knew that we were not a million miles away. Okay, Dublin were hot favourites but whether they go on and win the All-Ireland is a different story. I would imagine that a few other teams will have something to say about that.

“As much as anything else, it is a morale-boosting loss but it’s no real consolation because we came down here to win. Unfortunately we find ourselves in the same situation that we did that last year; of being competitive in a league final but still with no silverware to show for it.”

Doing so without O'Neill says only good things about them. When their captain and marquee forward went over on his ankle in the warm-up room underneath the Hogan Stand, it gave Cavanagh a flashback to the All-Ireland quarter-final of 2008 when he did almost exactly the same thing in exactly the same spot.

Get by
For the unseen ball that O'Neill stood on, read an unseen water bottle in Cavanagh's case. On that occasion, Cavanagh was able to play and Tyrone beat Dublin. This time, they had to get by.

“It t does give us a wee bit of hope,” said Cavanagh. “Losing Stevie, the only way that I can see it, is like when Peter Canavan retired in 2005 most people thought that we could not compete without him. We needed to take that step and we did. It’s a morale-boosting loss, okay, but it’s not what we came for. It is disappointing and the boys are very disappointed in the changing room there. It is a disappointing way to end the league.”

It was a sentiment echoed by probably Tyrone's best player on Sunday. Cathal McCarron kept Bernard Brogan on a short lead all day, so much so that Jim Gavin had the former Footballer Of The Year on the sideline with 12 minutes to go.

While McCarron brushed off any praise that came his way – "There's no world-beaters in this world . . . I'm sure Bernard Brogan will get over it" – he talked afterwards with the same spikiness that had served him well on the pitch.

“People were saying that we were 3/1 to win against Dublin but that seemed like a very big price in a two-horse race. It seemed that way to us anyway. We expected to win. We weren’t just coming down to fulfil the fixture. It just didn’t happen for us – there were a few breaks at the end that didn’t come our way. But it’s all go now to the Donegal game. It’s only four weeks away and it’s all systems go.”