Ulster football title only start of journey, says Mickey Harte
Tyrone are now a maturing side with silverware to show for it, says manager
Tyrone captain Seán Cavanagh: “We became men today . . . we have been knocking at the door in Ulster for the past few years but got no breaks.” Photograph: Andrew Paton/Presseye/Inpho
This had been coming, but the manner in which it landed laid waste to any doubters about Tyrone’s renewed All-Ireland contender credentials.
A newly-constructed panel has many of the successful 2015 under-21s in tow, but in Seán Cavanagh they boast a connection to glory days. Days the 33-year-old, five-time All Star, three-time All-Ireland winner and now four-time Ulster medallist was sick of pining for.
“It has been tough watching Donegal and Monaghan win the titles for a good few years now,” said Cavanagh under Clones sunshine. “We felt there was one in us and this was the day to deliver it.
“There’s a new team coming in Tyrone and it culminated here to some degree today. The lads who came off the bench made a huge impact in the second half. We kept at it and got our rewards in the end.”
No question: Kieran McGeary and Darren McCurry came in to land points, but it was the third score from Cavanagh, the veteran, the long- established legend of Tyrone football, that adds another great chapter to the Moy accountant’s epic career.
The late point he kicked was done under intense pressure to pull Tyrone level at 0-11 apiece, before Peter Harte’s unreal strike sorted the Anglo Celt Cup’s winter destination.
“Mattie Donnelly is a very big character in the team and when he was gone we needed guys to stand up, and they did. It was all about the character of Tyrone today.”
That has never been in question. Not under Mickey Harte’s 14-season watch. Not since Cavanagh laced up boots as a teenager.
“We have known that for some time we have people who are eager to get on this team,” said Harte.
Harte interestingly put the other 25 footballers in the same category as Cavanagh in that they are now established winners when it really matters. “People can’t be saying now that these young men don’t have an Ulster senior medal, they have. That establishes them in their own right, it gives them confidence and it means they are now a maturing side with silverware to show for it.
“But this is only the start of a journey, I think this journey will go on. How far it goes on this year, we will not look at a crystal ball. We will take it one game at a time, but I do believe that there is serious potential in this team.”
After this performance it seemed fitting that Harte spoke about his captain: “That’s why he is the player he is; that’s why he is recognised as the player around the country, the man he is. He is a leader. He has been there and done it since he was 19 years of age and I am just so delighted that he is lifting this Anglo-Celt Cup, because nobody deserves it more.”