Cavanagh brothers: Tyrone back to where we want to be

Whole panel driven to atone for disappointing defeat to Mayo in headquarters last year

"Hot sunny days in Clones is a memory for me," beams Sean Cavanagh as he stands in the sunshine with his daughter in his arms.

“ I remember standing on the hill in 1995 and I grew up with that memory and now I can pass this onto the next generation.”

The Moy man may be moving on after this year's adventure but Tyrone are going nowhere.

It's Club Med weather in Clones and on the pitch of St Tiernach's Park, it feels like old times. The Tyrone crowd fan out across the field. Somewhere Mickey Harte is lost in the crowd.


He is out there long after the players have been allowed off the field, still signing autographs (although it is hard to believe that there is any Tyrone man, woman or child without his signature now), still talking, still smiling.

Ulster is theirs for the second consecutive summer and this day has been so overwhelmingly Red Handed that it is definitively there province again. 2-17 on a blazing hot day and the luxury of bringing Cavanagh to rest in the shade with just over 50 minutes gone.

It was vintage Tyrone, full of silk and menace and a sense that they were playing within themselves.

"I think we left something behind last year," says Colm Cavanagh after lifting the Anglo-Celt Cup with his brother.

"Mayo beat us and it was definitely the toughest loss to take –in my career at least. Everyone is fighting to get their place not just on the 15 but on the 26. We are replacing like with like a lot of times and a lot of boys on the bench are probably disappointed not to start. And boys like Ronan O'Neill and Declan McClure really shone when they came in."

Like with like. Tyrone ran the bench here, sending in six substitutes. Ronan O’Neill’s pair of goals added a dash of flamboyance to a performance that spoke of hours and, indeed, seasons on the training field perfecting the puzzle that their defensive set-up has become for opposition teams.

Sticky maze

First Derry, then Donegal, now Down: all came unravelled and grew confused in trying to break Tyrone's sticky maze. Tyrone forced the agenda, hustling for turnovers, demanding impossible shots and then flooding into the Down half on the counterattack. They were all business.

“Every year you play, the more experience you get,” says Cathal McCarron.

“The younger lads have come in and these tough defeats; they make you. That Mayo defeat last year really hurt and I mean it hurt to the bone so look, we are back to where we want to be. It is a long road back so it will be heads down and back to training Tuesday night.”

This final went away quickly from Down. The Mourne men trailed just 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time and must have felt good about life at the break. Twenty minutes later they had been outscored by 1-7 to 0-2 and Tyrone hadn’t even conceded a free. Colm Cavanagh smiled at the idea that this Tyrone approach is a departure from previous teams.

“Ah it is probably hard to say. We have been working on things the last number of years and it is hard to say if we just have the right balance. I think we are just working well. We are attacking well and defending well but it is difficult to say.

“We are happy with how we are going at the minute. But you only have to look at the amount of scoring chances in the first half . . .we had 16 or 17 chances. We can’t afford to do that in an All-Ireland quarter-final or we will be out of sight.”

Sean Cavanagh left Clones with his sixth Ulster medal and the luxury of watching the closing minutes from the stand, including Ronan O’Neill’s audacious goal when the celebrations had already begun.

“When you have guys like Ronan O’Neill coming and scoring goals, that is a nice place to be. I would not have been allowed into the house by my Da if I ever tried that.”