Sean Cavanagh grateful for the memories and medals
By Cian O'Connell
It has been an emotional 10 days for Sean Cavanagh. Leaving the inter-county stage ended a deep and rewarding chapter, but Cavanagh is humbled by the reaction to his retirement from Tyrone duty.
Having won three All Ireland medals with Tyrone, Cavanagh will always be a widely respected figure. That provides a sense of satisfaction for the gifted Moy clubman.
“The one thing I always stood by in my career and wanted to stand by was to be respected by opponents, to be respected by supporters and I have always tried to be honest with people in interviews and be honest with my team mates on and off the pitch,” Cavanagh says.
“So some of the messages and some of the cards I've had have sort of reiterated that respect. While you are living in that inter-county bubble you don't get a chance to think about it, things just move that quickly. You are always looking at the next challenge, the next training.
Reflecting on the medals and moments has offered significant comfort. “The past week and a half has probably made me realise that I have been very lucky in that I have been able to share so many amazing memories with supporters and team mates,” Cavanagh admits.
“Things I probably didn't realise at the time were important in people's lives, they remind me of those moments. That has been the trend, it is something that has really helped my mood for sure. As time moves on it is something I will be able to cherish very greatly.”
Losing the All Ireland SFC Semi-Final to Dublin was a blow, but Cavanagh is extremely grateful for the 16 campaigns spent as a leader and driving force for Tyrone.
“The initial emotions straight after the match, it was quite raw with the defeat and the manner of the defeat,” Cavanagh acknowledges.
“As the hours passed and particularly the days passed I've had some ridiculously great and uplifting messages from all walks of life - friends, family, GAA and non GAA and then a realisation starts to sink in that I've been lucky enough to affect a lot of people's lives in a positive way over the past 16 years.
“Probably it was more of a positive outlook than a negative outlook and I've continued that over the last week or so. That is me all over, I tend to try to focus on the good parts and things in my career, the things I achieved as opposed to the negative and less good days.”
Ensuring Tyrone re-established themselves as a force in Ulster was one mission Cavanagh helped to accomplish in recent years with two successive provincial Championships gleaned.
“I suppose for the past couple of years when you know your career is coming to an end you go into that legacy mode where you want to leave that jersey in a better place than what you found it,” Cavanagh remarks.
“I feel that Donegal's dominance of us in Ulster through the early part of this decade was something that didn't sit all that well with us and we wanted to try to redress that balance which we have been able to do, I suppose, in the last couple of years.
“While the Ulsters were brilliant, particularly last year in the circumstances with us kicking a couple of points towards the end to win it in injury time was really sweet, but I was always looking at the bigger picture.
"I dearly would have loved to have bowed out on All Ireland Final day, I was lucky enough to have played in three of those myself. It is obviously a very special occasion, it saddens me that I wasn't able to help get so many good team mates that I had in that Tyrone team, they probably deserve to be on that stage.”
Cavanagh stresses the strength and stamina of the current Dublin panel. “The Sunday, though, was a realisation that Dublin are ahead of the game at the moment,” Cavanagh adds.
“They probably are the best inter-county team I have played against. When you realise that you have been beaten by a powerful and probably one of the greatest teams ever it makes it that little bit easier.
“Last year it would have been tough to bow out in the circumstances against Mayo the way we did, but this year there was no doubt Dublin were the better side.
“While we could have done things a little bit differently I'm not sure how much it would have affected it because Dublin were much superior on the day.
“As a sportsperson and someone who has played for a long time you learn to accept that. Whenever you are beaten by a better team it is definitely much easier to accept and to move on.”
Despite that Dublin setback Cavanagh is adamant that Tyrone can continue to develop. “I do, I have felt that for a while, I have seen the guys grow in stature,” Cavanagh states.
“I can see an awful lot of talent because Tyrone is a rich footballing hub. There are an awful lot of guys who didn't get game time this year who will certainly acquit themselves well in the next few years at inter county level for Tyrone. I'm not worried for Tyrone football.
“I think it is in a really good place, we are the best side in Ulster, for sure, and I can't see that changing any time soon. With the type of individuals we have I expect them to carry that on for the next number of years.
“The big question is can we go to take down a Dublin because at the moment Dublin probably are 10 or 15 per cent stronger than the rest. That is a challenge ourselves, Mayo, Kerry and anybody else who is at the top of their game is going to have to address.
“That is Gaelic Football at the moment, but there definitely is success to be had at Ulster level and then hopefully at national level for Tyrone in the coming years.”
During that time Cavanagh hopes to keep delivering for his club Moy. “For sure, we are playing in the Club Championship, my body feels good, injuries wise it is pretty good, I feel quite strong so I will continue to play on,” Cavanagh reveals.
“I love the sport, I always have. My father played Gaelic Football until he was 40, I'm only 34 at this stage so I'll hopefully get, at least a few years, to see how it goes.”
Sean Cavanagh, was speaking at the launch of this year’s Volkswagen All-Ireland Senior Football Sevens which takes place on the 16th of September at Kilmacud Crokes. This year Volkswagen 7’S TV returns, providing match highlights throughout the day on Volkswagen Twitter page @VolkswagenIE #VW7sTV