Wednesday 21 March 2018

Cavanagh wary of baggage-free Dubs

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

It was just two years ago but Sean Cavanagh is expecting the Dublin team he'll face this Saturday to be unrecognisable from the team his Tyrone side blitzed when they last met in the championship.

The fancied Dubs capitulated in the 2008 quarter-final in the white heat of one of Tyrone's best performances en route to the All-Ireland.

Under Pat Gilroy's regime, Dublin have made plenty of changes and Tyrone are expecting a steelier mindset and a meaner defence.

And while league form has been shown up as largely irrelevant this summer, Cavanagh and Tyrone are still smarting from the day Dublin came to Healy Park and relegated them to Division 2.

It marked Mickey Harte's card. Dublin came to play, worked hard and won 2-14 to 1-11. Tyrone's defence went man to man on the Dublin forwards that day, and that's certain not to happen again on Saturday.

And Cavanagh (27) said the quarter-final won't be one for the purists. Well, one purist in particular.

"I'm sure (Pat) Spillane won't be too happy," he said with a wry smile, referring to the 'Sunday Game' analyst. "It might not be the nicest game to watch for a neutral. Not every game is going to be played the way some of these Kerry purists want to play it. Kerry don't play it 15 for 15 and go for a shootout.

"Football has changed; teams are playing very tactically and sweepers are going back. We just have to get used to it. You are just not going to get the time and space maybe you would have got five, six years ago. We have been playing with the sweeper. Saturday's game will probably be similar. They'll play a defensive game."

And while Cavanagh reckons Dublin's new breed will approach the match without the psychological baggage of previous teams, he admits the league defeat did damage Tyrone.

"I think that this Dublin team haven't got the same psychological scars that maybe previous Dublin teams had and they won't be afraid of us. They'll be confident of taking us," he said. "The Dubs are motoring well. They're a very dangerous side.

"They were up in Healy Park when we were fighting for our lives in the league. People had maybe talked about our league performance in earlier rounds where we'd been missing key players but all those key players were back for that match.

"We prepared really well but Dublin came up and outfought us and outworked us. They won that game by six points but they could have won it by 10 or 12 points.

"I suppose immediately after the Dublin game, you were sort of thinking 'I've been involved with the Tyrone seniors for eight or nine years, and it's the first time now I've gone to Division 2'. It's a bit of a culture shock, and you're sort of thinking 'Jesus, maybe are we getting too old? Is this the end of the road almost?'

"We did have to rethink things, and maybe coming into the championship we hadn't the same confidence that we had in previous championships."

Tyrone responded well, winning the Ulster title, but Cavanagh is concerned that his side haven't really been tested en route to Croke Park.

"We sort of came through the Ulster championship without being put to the pin of our collar too much, and it's a dangerous place," added Cavanagh, speaking at the launch of the MBNA Kick Fada, which takes place at Bray Emmets GAA club on September 11.

Irish Independent

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