Despite pain of defeat, Seán Cavanagh finds reasons for Tyrone to be cheerful

Midfielder feels future is bright for young side after this campaign

Seán Cavanagh on the charge for Tyrone during Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Seán Cavanagh on the charge for Tyrone during Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.


Even in the wake of what Seán Cavanagh encountered on Sunday, Tyrone’s former footballer of the year believes Dublin, and not Mayo or Kerry, will capture the All-Ireland title in 2013.

“They are quite similar to Dublin in that they press high up the field,” said Cavanagh of Mayo’s 1-16 to 0-13 defeat of Tyrone. “They play in waves. I wish them all the best but I wouldn’t have them nailed on for the All-Ireland. There could be a kick in Dublin yet, I don’t think they’ve brought their best game to the arena yet. Just got a funny feeling it could be Dublin’s year.”

Despite being able to reflect on a respectable campaign for such a young Tyrone team, having also reached the league final, the focus inevitably switches to the future of veterans like Conor Gormley, Stephen O’Neill and even Cavanagh, who will be 31 in February, although the Moy man is almost certain to return in 2014.

“Teams always evolve. We always thought whenever Peter Canavan left there was going to be no team but yet we went back and did it in ’08. We’ve lost that many leaders over the past four or five years people question whether we can get back to this stage but we are still going strong.

Fantastic footballers
“There is always quality footballers in Tyrone. We have belief in ourselves. I wouldn’t be too worried about the 2014 or 2015 season because there’s some fantastic footballers there.”

Cavanagh went on to list those he felt played central roles in getting Tyrone to the All-Ireland semi-final.

“You’re looking around the dressing room, and you have Darren McCurry in there, he’s maybe 19, Connor McAliskey, he’s only 20, Mattie Donnelly, 21. You’ve got Ryan McKenna, you’ve got Conor Clarke. The majority of that team is very young, and if we had got a couple of decisions we could’ve got over the line.

“There’s the bones of a really good team and if we can pick ourselves up next year, you just wouldn’t know, but the younger guys have probably learnt from this more than we will. I think they’ll do well in years to come.”

And having returned from a serious shoulder operation, is the hunger and determination as strong as ever?

“I’ve always had a wee bit of confidence in myself. I sort of thought I could do it, you always wonder can the body get back to those levels, but my fitness has been great this year, but right now you are sitting looking can I go for another year? But, you know what, I will go back play club football and then see how things go throughout the winter.”

Personal criticism
One of the iconic images sporting images this year will be Cavanagh hauling down Monaghan’s Conor McManus in the All-Ireland quarter-final, mainly because of Joe Brolly’s reaction to it on RTÉ, but Cavanagh insisted the personal criticism didn’t hinder his preparation.

“It didn’t have an effect whatsoever. If anything, it almost tends to push you on wee bit harder. We don’t concentrate too much on that there, we know that on our day we’re a good footballing side, and we were beaten by a good footballing side and I would just like to wish Mayo all the best, because they’re good lads, and it was a good sporting game out here.”

However, of referee Maurice Deegan’s decision, made from almost 50 metres away, to award Mayo a 50th minute penalty, Cavanagh added: “I couldn’t have called it. I couldn’t have seen whether he was in or out of the box.”

Television replays showed Colm Boyle to be outside the parallelogram when fouled by Dermot Carlin.

“It just seemed strange that he was making the decision from so far away. I remember looking up at the screen and thinking, God, he could have been a yard outside and momentum carried him through.

“Some days you get those and some days you don’t. That gave them the oxygen to drive forward. We just didn’t recover from that. They are a good side.”