Seán Cavanagh wants to seize every moment
Tyrone star relished his trip to Semple Stadium but Croke Park is main goal
Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh in action against Tipperary in Semple Stadium. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Tyrone are a young superpower in football terms. They were never really a dominant force in Ulster in the past, with their first All-Ireland only arriving in 2003.
You can see this in the delight Mickey Harte and Seán Cavanagh – Agamemnon and Achilles of this reinvigorating northern empire – took from playing at Semple Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
Victory over Tipperary was easy and who can blame them for the manner in which Limerick and Meath were previously dispatched.
What’s clear through is the method in Harte’s rebuilding process. Joe McMahon has returned to sweeper, Peter Harte has been given a free role that mirrors Brian Dooher with flecks of Brian McGuigan, and successful under-21 players are being drip-fed into the team.
All the while their five-time All Starand three-time All-Ireland winner creeps towards peak form. Three points came off Cavanagh’s boot on this 76th championship outing, surpassing Conor Gormley’s record, in a career that dates back to – well, the exact date in Clones rolls off his tongue.
“I wasn’t supposed to start. I think it was the 19th of May 2002. Brian McGuigan got an injury before we were supposed to run out against Armagh. I remember number 19 on my back. Ended up getting a lucky goal at the end of that game to draw it.
“As I said to the guys, I can remember all of those 76 games and it disappears like a lightning bolt. When you got that Tyrone jersey on you have to honour it, you’ve got to cherish it.
“Thirteen years later and here we are at Semple Stadium. It’s the first time we’ve ever been to this beautiful stadium.It does disappear in a flash. That’s why you got to seize the moment.
“I’ve been luckier than most to have won a few accolades in my time but it’s really all about here and now.
“We really need to push on,” said the 32-year-old. “We’ve been disappointed in the last few years and coming down to places like this means an awful lot because we have been labelled average and mediocre – and we have been average and mediocre.
“We feel that we can improve. This was the first step in doing it.”
Sligo next, then Monaghan and, who knows, Kerry thereafter.
“It’s surreal,” Cavanagh added that himself and “big Joey McMahon” are part of a team that is not seen as anything other than the best in the country.
“We probably lived in a bubble for the first five or six years. We were just used to winning. We took Croke Park for granted. Fingers crossed we can get back there yet.”
Harte has never taken the 2008 footballer of the year for granted, using his rangy presence in all manner of ways as Tyrone sauntered into August and beyond.
“We could never have guessed the career he had ahead of him, he probably couldn’t have envisaged it himself, but he’s still going strong at thirty-something. He’s a mighty player for us,” said Harte.