Sean Cavanagh: 'Dublin's dominance is scary'
By John Harrington
Tyrone football captain Sean Cavanagh admits that Dublin’s increasing dominance of the game is ‘scary’. The Dubs won a fourth Allianz Football League Division 1 title in a row by beating Kerry by 11 points on Sunday and are now gunning for a fourth All-Ireland title in six years.
Earlier on Sunday Cavanagh had led his well-drilled looking Tyrone team to victory over Cavan in the Allianz Division 1 Final. But when the EirGrid ambassador spoke at Monday's launch of the EirGrid GAA All-Ireland U-21 Football Final he admitted every other county in the country has been put in the shade by Jim Gavin’s relentlessly ambitious side.
“It's mad like, obviously I've been playing Gaelic football a long time but to have that sort of dominance for a sustained period is incredible,” says Cavanagh. “In reality they could have had Donegal beaten in the first 10-15 minutes of that (2014 All-Ireland) semi-final and that's the only game they've let themselves down in in the past three years. Even in that game they had a few chances to whitewash Donegal and they probably would have gone on to win the Final as well.
“It's scary how dominant they've been over the last three years but you can do nothing else but sit back and credit Jim Gavin and what he's been able to do with that group of players and put together such a strong and powerful running team. They do flood numbers back - I saw Bernard Brogan defending as much as Johnny Cooper yesterday but at the same time they have that pace and power and strength to blow teams away at the other end and you could see the Kerry lads out on their feet after 50 to 55 minutes and that's where that games are won and that's where Dublin are experts at wearing teams down. You've got to give them credit because I haven't seen a team since I've been involved in football who have been so dominant.”
The Kerry team that won eight All-Irelands in 12 years from 1975 to 1986 remain statistically the most dominant of any era. Comparing modern day teams to those of the past is a tricky business because the game itself has changed so much. But Cavanagh believes the current Dublin team must be regarded as one of the truly great sides in the history of the game.
“Yeah, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “You're looking around at some of their personnel and even the likes of Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly are some of the best players I've played with and against and last year they had average enough seasons but still Dublin whitewashed every team so you're thinking they can afford to have off days and off seasons but they're still grinding out serious results and that's a serious thing for a team to be able to say.
“Most teams will look to three or four players but they don't seem to have that, they're just a well-oiled machine and Jim Gavin has them firing on all cylinders. I just hope they have a blip somewhere along the line but it's difficult to see that coming at this stage.”
The red-carding of Aidan O’Mahony certainly didn’t help Kerry’s cause, but even before he was sent-off 15 minutes into the second-half it was clear they were struggling to cope with Dublin’s explosive athleticism. If any team is to beat them in the Championship this year then that’s the first box they need to be able to tick. It might be interesting to see how well this current Tyrone team would match up against them because their own athleticism was also impressive against Cavan on Sunday.
“It's tougher to keep up with some of the younger lads on the Tyrone panel at the moment and we do have some really strong and powerful runners,” agrees Cavanagh. “To be honest, I personally don't where we are at this stage, I think we had more of an idea last year having played Dublin and we weren't all that far away from them, got a draw, and played Kerry and got a draw so we're thinking we're reasonably well set-up to have a go at these guys if we meet them later in the championship.
“This year is different, I'm not sure where we're at and that's a dangerous enough place to be. We could go into the championship with a sense of belief and then all of a sudden get knocked back so it's something we have to be very careful about but first things first it's Celtic Park on May 21st and if we can progress our way through the Ulster championship then well and good but I suspect we won't be seeing Dublin for a while and if we do see them it will be a good year as it will be in the latter stages of the championship.”
By yesterday his thoughts had already turned to that Ulster Championship Quarter-Final against Derry in Celtic Park, but Cavanagh made a point of enjoying every minute of the post-match celebrations that followed Tyrone’s League Final win over Cavan on Sunday.
“I was immensely proud. To get the opportunity to climb the Hogan Stand steps and lift whatever cup is a proud part of my life and something I will always remember when I finish up. It was the first time that my two kids (Eva, 5, and Clara, 3) were at the game, across in the Cusack Stand with my wife (Finnoula). I was able to go across to them at the final whistle and get the photographs just on a personal note was a real emotional feeling and a real honour. To be able to do that in Croke Park with my two girls and have those pictures is something I will always cherish.
“Even myself and Colm got a picture with my dad and my dad would be the type of guy who would be more willing to give you a kick than to give you a hug but to have him in front of the Hogan Stand when we came down and you could see the pride in him. He would never in a million years say that. Yesterday to me was a nice moment and something I will definitely cherish and be up there with some of the best achievements playing sport.”