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Sean Cavanagh

Sean Cavanagh

Sean Cavanagh: 'Starting my brother would be risky'

By John Harrington

Sean Cavanagh says the biggest call that Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has to make ahead of Sunday’s Ulster SFC Quarter-Final against Monaghan is whether or not to pick his brother Colm in the starting XV.

Colm Cavanagh didn’t feature for Tyrone during the League because of a quad muscle injury but has recently returned to training.

The defensive sweeper is a crucial cog in the Tyrone machine, but Harte’s dilemma is whether or not to risk a player with so little recent match-practice in what's bound to be a ferociously physical contest.

“He hasn't played any football since we had the club All-Ireland final in mid-February,” said Cavanagh today at the launch of Electric Ireland’s ‘This is Major’ 2018 campaign.

“He’s had no match practice, he’s back doing a bit of training. It’ll be an interesting call for Mickey over the next couple day, whether he puts him in from the start on Sunday or not.

“He’s a lynchpin and a key player in Tyrone’s defensive unit. I would imagine if he’s feeling good and he’s feeling strong - I haven’t been at the training so I don’t know how he’s been going - I’d say if he’s anywhere near right, Mickey will want him there if at all possible.

“It’s a big ask if you haven’t played football for the guts of three months. It’s a big risk throwing him into a match of that magnitude because it’s going to be hot and heavy from an early stage.

“One moment could probably change the game and whenever you have forwards like McManus or Kieran Hughes lurking around, if there’s one slip or one mistake, it could swing the game; that’s the cut and thrust of championship football.”

Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh pictured at the launch of the 2018 Allianz Leagues in Belfast Castle, Belfast.
Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh pictured at the launch of the 2018 Allianz Leagues in Belfast Castle, Belfast.

The two Cavanagh brothers live next door to one another, and when Sean saw Colm arrive home from Tyrone training last night it really hit home that he’s not going to be a part of the team for a Championship campaign for the first time in 16 years.

“That moment where I saw Colm last night was, yeah, I knew it was going to be a tough next few days,” said Cavanagh.

“I think Sunday morning it will really hit me when I'm getting up and thinking of every player getting up with the adrenalin properly flowing.

“When you get into that team environment, you almost feel protected in it. It's that sort of bubble that people talk about where you shut out all that's happening in the outside world. That's a special place and that's probably a place that I'm going to miss most.”

Watching his brother return home from Tyrone training wasn’t the only painful reminder Cavanagh experienced yesterday that he’s no longer part of that bubble and is now just an ordinary punter like everyone else.

While printing out his tickets for the match he was dismayed to discover that Healy Park now has a seating plan.

“I've been playing there for 20 years and never realised there was a seating plan,” he said.

“I was checking out where the seats are and they're crap seats! It is a strange one, printing Tyrone tickets out. Something that I've never had to do, before there was no online print-outs.

“It’s going to be tough. Sunday will be tough. I know rightly on the way up to the match on Sunday that I'll be thinking, 'what are the guys doing now?'

“When you've been in it and you know what's involved and how special it is, it'll be hard to be on the other side of it. But, ‘c’est la vie’.”

Sean Cavanagh is embraced by Dublin's Stephen Cluxton after Sunday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final.
Sean Cavanagh is embraced by Dublin's Stephen Cluxton after Sunday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final.

What he’s looking forward to the least on Sunday is the feeling of being powerless to help his team-mates if they find themselves in a tough position against Monaghan.

“I think the toughest part, even when I was injured during the years, the toughest part is frustration and not being able to do anything about it,” said Cavanagh.

“When you're a player for as long as I've been that control thing where you know it's great to be able to say even if it's your fault and you've done something wrong, but it's you.

“Watching on Sunday and it's someone else I'm sure the frustration will start to come out. I'm the world's worst spectator anyway.

"I can remember the last time I was a proper supporter was probably 2001. Tyrone played Derry in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final.

“They had beaten Derry in the Ulster Championship and then they came back to play them in the All-Ireland quarter-final and Paddy Bradley managed to get up with Finbarr McConnell and bundle the ball over the line and Tyrone lost that game.

“I remember the gut-wrenching feel afterwards. I'm not looking forward to that again. But I just have to get on with it.”

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