Tuesday 20 March 2018

Cavanagh: 'The form we have shown to date probably wouldn't be good enough to beat the Dubs'

Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone at the county’s Centre of Excellence in Garvahey. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone at the county’s Centre of Excellence in Garvahey. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

John Campbell

Tyrone powerhouse Colm Cavanagh has no desire to dampen the hopes of his own supporters in advance of Sunday's blockbuster All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, yet his natural instinct is to play down the team's impressive journey to this point.

Mickey Harte's men careered to back-to-back Ulster titles without being unduly troubled, before demolishing neighbours Armagh in a one-sided All-Ireland quarter-final.

But Cavanagh - who has filled the sweeper role with stoic efficiency and endless energy - is adamant that the Red Hands' form to date will not suffice to topple the Dubs.

In typical forthright fashion, the Moy clubman lays it on the line as Tyrone prepare to put the final touches to their preparations for the game at the county's Garvaghey Centre of Excellence.

"We have racked up some good scores and won convincingly some days out, but if you were to sit down and analyse the games, we have been far from perfect in all those ties," reasons Cavanagh.

"To beat the likes of Dublin the form we have shown to date probably wouldn't be good enough to get us over the line."

It's a sobering warning that has already been absorbed by the entire Tyrone squad as they gear up for their biggest match of the year to date against the seemingly dominant defending All-Ireland champions.

Dublin trundled through to yet another Leinster Championship without breaking sweat before comfortably accounting for Monaghan in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

While Tyrone's championship pedigree is the envy of most other counties, Cavanagh is quick to highlight what he views were deficiencies against Armagh in that quarter-final win.

"What probably sticks out in my mind is the first 10 minutes of the second half of that game when we just kept giving the ball away," laments the 30-year-old.

"You certainly could not afford to do that against Dublin otherwise you would quickly find yourself three or four points down.

"That 10- or 12-minute spell in lapse of concentration could really be detrimental to our performance and it might be too late to turn it around."

The intensity of Tyrone's training and the players' raw desire to secure starting places for the massive showdown make training a high-octane, highly demanding exercise, but Cavanagh feels that the benefits which he sees accruing from this could prove crucial on Sunday. "Younger lads have come in and have really freshened things up with new ideas and they have added value to the squad and aren't just happy to be merely part of it," points out Cavanagh with a degree of pride.

"They are striving to first of all get into the 26-strong match-day squad and then make it into the starting 15.

"To be successful in any way we need everybody pulling together and pushing each other on and that is what has happened in this campaign in particular.

"You only have to come to any training and see in-house games when guys are falling out with each other and then going back to share a room that night and maybe not speaking for a while, but that is how fierce things are in our squad."

While the accountant will be nominally paired against his opposite number Brian Fenton from the throw-in, he is certain to also fulfil the duties of sweeper - especially when the Dubs drive forward on the counter-attack.

Confirmation of his immense value to the side has been forthcoming from Mickey Harte himself as he plots his strategy with a greater degree of confidence in the knowledge that Cavanagh has fully recovered from a hip injury sustained against Armagh and will be ready for anything.

"Colm is a serious operator," declares boss Harte. "I would hate to be going out into any game without him. He's gold dust in our team and is a class man."

Endorsements don't come any more glowing than that, do they?



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