Sean Cavanagh: Tiernan McCann incident shouldn't have happened but Dublin-Mayo was worse
But Tyrone star claims other counties are getting off lightly
Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30
Sean Cavanagh insists he's not looking for absolution for either himself or Tyrone.
When it comes down to it, he knows they have been at the sharp-edge of things. He accepts that they are as comfortable as anyone in Gaelic football's murky waters.
He just wants someone to acknowledge they are never there on their own.
Look at Dublin's drawn game with Mayo, he pleads. There were things in that game he points out that would make the eyes water.
But that Tyrone weren't involved means it wasn't as interesting and things were brushed aside more quickly than they might have been.
"There have been things that shouldn't have happened - like the thing with Tiernan (McCann) - but these things happen across the board.
"Dublin and Mayo, that was an awful lot worse. There were punches and kicks and headbutts. To me, that's a lot more dangerous.
"And then the disappointing thing was that no one was talking about the good football we were playing at the time. We were starting to realise our potential but no one was talking about that."
The Tyrone rap sheet doesn't make for good reading. The McCann dive, the aftermath of the U-21 final win over Tipperary and the nastiness of their Ulster Championship clash with Donegal earlier this season are the lowlights from this year alone.
At this stage it must feel like an almost annual fire fight.
But they found an unlikely ally this year. GAA president Aogán ó Fearghail expressed his view that Ulster counties in general and Tyrone in particular get a bad touch from analysts.
For Cavanagh, it's nothing new.
"It's there from the start," he recalls.
"Go back to 2003 and the puke football thing. I can remember a match playing Derry and I got cuts in the top of my head. I was getting called a disgrace because they thought I had dived. My mother and father were looking at the cuts on my head and wondering what's this all about."
Things went full circle for him this year when one of his daughters caught the end of a TV report.
"She was watching something and she came in and told me they were calling us cheats on TV. I just told her there were plenty of liars on the telly!"
It's put to Cavanagh that at least some of this is of their own making. That the old line about when everyone in the room is telling you you're wrong, then you're wrong might ring true here.
"I'd completely agree things haven't been perfect.
"And I know when you put yourself on those platforms you are there to be cut down. But look, it happens across the GAA. Me and my team-mates have been bitten, spat at, elbowed and kneed repeatedly down through the years. It happens. That's it. It's not ideal when you are trying to promote a product. But it happens."
Cavanagh has his own theory as to why Tyrone might get it harder than most in the media.
"Maybe not speaking to RTé … particularly with 'The Sunday Game'. The analysis that comes from that show tends to set the tone for the week."
That rift could be healed sooner rather than later. Discussions are ongoing but Mickey Harte is expected to continue as manager next year, though officials in the county are keen improve relations with the national broadcaster as part of any package.
Even if Harte doesn't return, Cavanagh will certainly be back for a 14th season with Tyrone in 2016.
After a discussion at home he got the "green light" to continue "being selfish" as he puts it.
He reckons playing county football is like another job, taking around 30-35 hours of a typical week. Early starts and late finishes mean he'll miss loads at home but with the upturn in Tyrone's fortunes, the 32-year-old feels like it's wrong time to be walking away.
"We had a meeting on the Wednesday after (the Kerry game) and it was a pretty sombre affair. It felt like a missed opportunity. As the year went on, we started to expect to get to a final. Meath were a good team and played well that day. When we beat Tipp it felt like it was coming together.
"It's almost a completely new team from three or four years ago. As you go on you become selfish because you know that your next trophy - if there is to be another one - could be your last. So you want to keep going as long as you can.
"You have to cherish every moment."