Wednesday 13 December 2017

Cavanagh has no time for nostalgia in his last stand

Cavanagh: “I generally don’t tend to dwell too much on anything I’ve done in the game. I’m just that type of a person that I’m always looking ahead.
Cavanagh: “I generally don’t tend to dwell too much on anything I’ve done in the game. I’m just that type of a person that I’m always looking ahead." Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

He's on the clock now. If it all goes wrong on Sunday, Sean Cavanagh could be looking at the final fortnight of his Tyrone career. Of course, the plan is to drag the goodbye into September if the football gods decide he gets a shot at his happy ending.

But after 16 seasons and 235 senior appearances, the end is nigh.

He'll be finished with the Ulster championship on Sunday but there is some symmetry to it all. This weekend they have Down in Ulster football's biggest day in Clones, just as they had for Cavanagh's first provincial final in 2003.

"I appreciate this Ulster final as much as the first one," he says. "I might appreciate this one even more because I have spent the majority of this decade watching Donegal and Monaghan dominate Ulster finals.

"Last year we got the breakthrough and it was so sweet and we celebrated and possibly over-celebrated. But it really showed us and showed me the value of the provincial (title)."


So he's on the home straight but there's no room for nostalgia. No time for looking back. There'll be enough of that next year.

"I haven't got one trophy, medal, picture of anything GAA related throughout my whole house," the EirGrid ambassador reveals.

"It's all in my Mum's. Anything I've won in the last five or six years has all been stored in boxes in the eaves of the attic upstairs.

"I generally don't tend to dwell too much on anything I've done in the game. I'm just that type of a person that I'm always looking ahead. I'm optimistic about what's ahead.

"I haven't really even thought about... I've got about two or three big boxes that are about 10 inches tall that my Mum and (wife) Fionnuala have collected over the years, paper clippings and what not that they've thrown into boxes.

"I've sort of promised myself that whenever it's done or dusted I'll sit down and go through the boxes and look at what I want to keep and not.

"But I'm not all that nostalgic at the moment, I'm just getting through what I have to do at the moment and enjoying it."

Cavanagh is probably less surprised than most that it is Down they'll face this weekend. His career has been littered with trophies but it has been pockmarked by run-ins with various Down teams. In fact, he reckons Down helped mould the great Tyrone side of the 2000s.

Going into the 2003 campaign, there were questions marks over Tyrone after they had been knocked out of the previous year's All-Ireland race by Sligo. And the doubters looked like they might be proven right when in the '03 Ulster final, a hotly-tipped Tyrone found themselves nine points in arrears to the Mourne men.

Aided by Gregory McCartan's sending off, Tyrone somehow recovered from the concession of four goals to secure a draw.

They would win the replay comfortably on the way to the county's first All-Ireland but Cavanagh believes Tyrone found themselves as a team that afternoon.

"It probably was one of those moments," he recalls. "In that comeback there was a lot of character and individual personalities that came to the fore because it was required.

"You were thinking: 'this isn't happening' because we were meant to win that game handy.

"We had come off a couple of good wins against Antrim and Derry and me as a lad, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Then all of a sudden you are looking at the scoreboard and you are nine points down and thinking 'this can't be happening, we have Peter Canavan and Mugsie up front'.

"But yeah, Down put us to the pin of our collars and it probably defined us, that 20 minutes where we made that comeback."

So Down have all his focus now. Tyrone produced one of their best championship performances in years last time out but with time running out, he won't be taking anything for granted.

"It's scary but I'm on the countdown for sure and I realise Sunday could be my second last time pulling on a Tyrone jersey, that's where it is at at the moment.

"But I'm still trying to ignore it. You always hope you'll get another day out."



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