Sunday 18 February 2018

Tyrone team of 2005 would rattle Jim Gavin's Dublin, says Sean Cavanagh

Tyrone's Chris Lawn, left and Peter Canavan lift the Sam Maguire Cup in 2005
Tyrone's Chris Lawn, left and Peter Canavan lift the Sam Maguire Cup in 2005
Sean Cavanagh. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Seán Cavanagh reckons the Tyrone team of 2005 would be best placed to tackle Jim Gavin's all-conquering Dubs.

Mickey Harte's 2018 version take on the triple All-Ireland champions in Omagh's Healy Park on Saturday night as the sides meet for the first time since the Dubs hammered the Red Hand in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, a game that proved to be Cavanagh's swansong in a Tyrone shirt.

Cavanagh won't be in Omagh on Saturday night as he'll be on duty in Croke Park as Moy look to claim the All-Ireland Club IFC title but reckons the Tyrone side, which won three All-Irelands from 2003 to 2008, could tackle the Dubs.

"It'd be an interesting one, that one," he replied, when asked if that Tyrone team in its pomp could beat Dublin. "Look, I believe the best Tyrone team we had was 2005. I think when you look back at the individuals we had and the age profile at that stage, I think that team would take an awful lot of stopping.

"Armagh were probably not far from their pomp at that stage as well and those games that we had with them were incredibly intense, physical games. So yeah, I think that team have it. If I was to pick one team to go up against them I'd love to pick that team and throw them in and see how Ricey (Ryan McMenamin) gets on and how (Conor) Gormley gets on! You'd need a good referee that day!"

Tyrone got off to a miserable start to their league campaign as they went down to Galway in Tuam and Cavanagh admits the Tyrone public won't be too hopeful heading into the fixture.

"I suppose the expectation levels for Saturday will not be all that high, obviously coming off the back of that (Galway) result - and that might suit Tyrone. Sometimes Tyrone will play better, and have played better, when chips are down and when they've something to prove.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Tyrone went out and put in a big performance on Saturday. They have the ability there, I know they didn't put up many scores (against Galway) and an awful lot is being made of the fact that in the last couple of big, big games we haven't scored heavily.

But they have the ability to score heavily and, if it does come together, the likes of Niall Sludden, Mattie (Donnelly), Petie (Harte), guys like that … if they click on any given day they could put up huge scores. I know it didn't happen the last day, but I think they'll be all right."

Much has been made of Stephen O'Neill's addition to Mickey Harte's backroom team and after last year's defeat to the Dubs, Cavanagh believes they will have to be more adaptable in terms of when it comes to the biggest days in Croke Park.

"We maybe were a bit of a slave last year to one system. It was working for us, though, and we totally believed it was going to be enough to win. But this year, I think every team in Ireland realises that there's going to have to be more systems within a game.

"And you watch Dublin, and Dublin have that ability to put 13, 14 behind the ball - but then they'll all break, and there's times they'll leave players up. So they have that adaptability within their game. I think every team is trying to get to that level that Dublin are at, by tweaking.

"And you could see Donegal there even, they seemed to be committing more men forward. And equally conceding scores at the back. So it's going to be an interesting year. I think most teams now are realising - and our game with Dublin last year probably taught an awful lot of teams that they can't afford to just put everyone behind the ball and then hope that they can catch teams on the counter. They have to be an awful lot more adaptable."

Irish Independent

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