Sunday 18 August 2019

Dick Clerkin: 'Tyrone will need classy Colm Cavanagh in a more traditional role for visit of Dublin'

Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh, left. Photo: Sportsfile
Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh, left. Photo: Sportsfile

Dick Clerkin

'Lies, damn lies and statistics'…. In times gone by, kick-outs won and amount of possession were once reliable indicators of a team's overall performance.

Not anymore. Based on these statistics, Cavan had a good day at the office against Tyrone on Saturday evening. Yet they were beaten by over a point a man, in a completely forgettable one-sided contest in Clones.

Fitter, faster stronger and ultimately smarter, Tyrone looked like a team headed for Croke Park, after handing out a modern day footballing lesson to traditionalists Cavan, who looked bereft of ideas or energy from the throw in.

As co-commentator for Sky Sports, I had the perfect vantage point to view the movement and positioning of the Tyrone players throughout the game.

How they positioned themselves for kick-outs, and provided numerous outfield options for the ever-improving Niall Morgan to target.

How they defended and tackled in numbers in their own half, with a lethal blend of aggression and discipline that sucked the life out of a toothless Cavan attack.

How, similar to the Kildare match, they had willing scoring options from literally every line of their team when breaking forward.

Amidst all the slick hand passing, and hard running, it was the positioning and overall influence that Colm Cavanagh had on the match that caught my attention, and saw him narrowly edge out many of his team-mates for the man of the match award.

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It was one of those days that several awards could have been handed out, such was the overall dominance of the Tyrone men.

Conor Meyler, Mattie Donnelly, the front runners ahead of Kieran McGeary, Niall Morgan, Peter Harte, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McShane and Darren McCurry who all put in strong performances. The form of so many of his key men must be very satisfying for Mickey Harte as he heads into the business end of proceedings.

So why then did I give Cavanagh the nod ahead of many of his well deserving team-mates? Cavanagh's role as sweeper has been well documented and analysed in recent seasons.

Often copied but rarely equalled, Cavanagh's role on Saturday was a text book example of how effective it can be when deployed correctly.

Ultimately, Cavanagh got the MOTM nod based on both his and Tyrone's ruthless first half performance that decided Saturday's contest. In attack, he both scored and created during a scoring blitz that would see them stretch out an eight-point half time lead.

In defence he spearheaded a miserly Tyrone defence that turned over a laboured Cavan attack with ruthless efficiency. As a contest the game was over at half time. Tyrone had crushed Cavan's will to compete, and Cavanagh had his fingerprints over every aspect of their play.

But here is the rub. As effective as Cavanagh is playing this role, Harte will surely realise he will need a more traditional midfield performance from his elder statesman if they are going to trouble Dublin in the weeks ahead.

In last year's All-Ireland final, when Tyrone needed a big midfield showing to quell the middle third dominance of Dublin, Cavanagh was found wanting. If Tyrone are going to be realistic All-Ireland contenders they need Colm Cavanagh to take a leaf out his big brother's Seán's book, and provide a dominant middle third performance for a full 70 minutes.

As a dress rehearsal for a possible repeat All-Ireland final meeting, their duel in Omagh in a few weeks' time could be worth the admission fee alone.

As we head into the Super 8s, Tyrone have regained the trust lost following their lapse against Donegal.

Whilst Cavanagh's performance was decisive on Saturday, Cavan are no Dublin, and more will be needed from the talismanic Moy man if Tyrone are going to be the team to break Jim Gavin's stranglehold on Sam Maguire.

Irish Independent

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