Seán Cavanagh concedes Tyrone need to sort problems ahead of qualifier

Veteran wary of Louth challenge at Healy Park after defeat to Monaghan

Seán Cavanagh hardly needed any reminder of Tyrone's football qualifier record against Louth. When they first met, in 2006, Tyrone were defending All-Ireland champions, and Louth very nearly took them out – Owen Mulligan helping to force a replay, after extra-time.

Tyrone did win the replay, but their performance against Louth was perhaps a sign of things to come, as Laois then took them out in the next round. Against that backdrop, Saturday afternoon’s qualifier at Healy Park has the obvious potential to make or break Tyrone’s season. “We know all about Louth,” says Cavanagh. “We played them in again 2008 as well, and they’re always a very sticky side, always hard to play against. So we need to get ourselves sorted out, and obviously give Louth all the respect they deserve, because they could catch us.”

Indeed Tyrone and Louth will both feel like getting themselves sorted out: Tyrone lost considerable momentum with their Ulster quarter-final defeat to Monaghan, while Louth put up a surprisingly poor performance against Kildare in the Leinster quarter-final having done well to beat Westmeath in the opening round. Cavanagh admits that result surprised him, too.


“I didn’t see their game against Kildare, but heard the result and was certainly wondering what happened there because they’re normally very competitive. But there’s no doubt they’ve some very good footballers.


Paddy Keenan

has been a great footballer for a number of years, and the young

Ryan Burns

at corner-forward. They have a couple of stalwart forwards that can do damage on any given day but from our point of view, we really need to get our own house in order.”

Mickey Harte’s team still have a reputation from gaining speed and strength during the qualifiers: their record still stands at played 23, won 19, and drawn one, although Cavanagh admits there’s no switch that simply turns that on.

“I think we’re still capable of it, but nothing is guaranteed. I think the one thing we have is a decent squad, and have the likes of Joe McMahon back in good shape, looking like his old self. Stephen O’Neill too. I think we need maybe two or three of those old heads about us to get the game time under their belts, and if we do that, we’ll be in good enough shape.”

Harte has strengthened his panel further by calling up 2013 minor captain Conor McKenna, brother of panel members Emmett and Ryan.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics