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Sean Cavanagh's challenge for Red Hands' young brigade

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Sean Cavanagh: 'Some of the younger guys who have come through the ranks in the last few years haven't stepped up in terms of leadership in the way that they need to step up'. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Sean Cavanagh: 'Some of the younger guys who have come through the ranks in the last few years haven't stepped up in terms of leadership in the way that they need to step up'. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Sean Cavanagh: 'Some of the younger guys who have come through the ranks in the last few years haven't stepped up in terms of leadership in the way that they need to step up'. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Sean Cavanagh has told the younger generation of Tyrone players that it's time they took more responsibility as the county battles to revisit the lofty peaks of the 2003-08 era.

Stephen Neill's retirement robs Tyrone of another of its top names, further adding to the pressure on the younger players to fill the ever-widening gaps in the squad.

Cavanagh has now thrown out a challenge to the younger brigade.

"In the last few years, an awful lot of the guys who had been around with the noughties are gone. There are only a few of us left. Hopefully the likes of Joe (McMahon) and Conor (Gormley) will stay around. These boys have been around the block.

"Things will always evolve and somebody will have to step into other's shoes.

"Some of the younger guys who have come through the ranks in the last few years haven't stepped up in terms of leadership in the way that they need to step up.

"It's their opportunity now to show what they can do. We can no longer rely on the guys who won us All-Irelands. It's a totally new Tyrone team and it's a challenge for the younger guys to replace the likes of Stephen O'Neill," he said.

Paying tribute to O'Neill, Cavanagh described him as the "most natural scorer I have ever played with".

CAPACITY

Speaking after playing for Ireland in yesterday's International Rules warm-up game in Melbourne, Cavanagh said that, when fully fit, O'Neill's scoring capacity was enormous.

"He was one of those guys who could win a game on his own and he often did that for us.

"Unfortunately, the injuries always seemed to catch up with Stevie, which was sad, because we never saw him fulfilling his full potential, bar that one year (2005).

"We will be sad to see him go but we still have to celebrate some of the magnificent performances he gave in the Tyrone jersey," said Cavanagh.

His comments about younger players needing to take more responsibility will resonate in Tyrone at a time when there's uncertainty about where the county is headed.

He said that he still believes that Tyrone have some of the best inside finishers in the game, but they need to get a proper service.

"The way the game was being played last season, the inside forwards weren't getting their chances.

"I think if we can get a fit Ronan O'Neill and Darren McCurry and guys like that on our team, we have as good an inside forward line as any team in Ireland," said Cavanagh.

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