Friday 24 January 2020

Tyrone's younger Cavanagh feeling 'older' as he targets Orchard raid

Colm Cavanagh: ‘Time goes very fast’. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Colm Cavanagh: ‘Time goes very fast’. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

A couple of days after Tyrone retained their Ulster title, Colm Cavanagh updated his Instagram account.

Alongside the caption "if Carlsberg did 48 hours" was a picture of his newborn Chloe.

This was the first child of Cavanagh and his wife Levina, and later that week the Moy man also celebrated his 30th birthday.

Levina had actually attended the Ulster football final success over Down, perhaps thankful that the game wasn't hard-fought or stressful, as Tyrone burned Down off fairly sharpish and then just chipped away at growing their margin.

"She was here today. She decided she wasn't going to be staying at home to watch anything," said Cavanagh after the final whistle.

In any case, she was sitting beside Fionnuala, who is married to Colm's older brother Sean, and the family ties will come into sharp focus as Tyrone face Armagh this weekend.

There is a good chance that Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh may be directly pitted against his brother-in-law Charlie Vernon for the final time, having reiterated on several occasions that this is the final season of a career that has lasted 16 seasons.

If there is one thing driving Sean on, it is the manner of their defeat against Mayo in last year's quarter-final.

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While making his way to his position for the second half, he got snared in a wrestling match against his marker Lee Keegan. It earned the Red Hand man a yellow card. When he made a clumsy tackle later in the game that brought a black card, it left Tyrone a man down.

Sean has stated that he couldn't simply leave it at that.

This year Tyrone are in a similar position and are strong favourites at the quarter-final stage. However, Colm admits that the pain of that loss still resonates within the squad.

"There was a lot of disappointment last year. We thought we let one go. This gives us an opportunity to get back to where we want to be," the accountant says.

Cavanagh's form this season has been outstanding. His commanding Ulster final appearance came despite having barely trained in the month beforehand, after sustaining a bang on his knee while playing for his club The Moy against Cookstown.

"I had to go off after 15 minutes and, to be fair, I didn't do any real training after that," he says.

And so when the Tyrone camp took over Carton House in Maynooth for a training weekend, he had the company of other men who were suffering from niggles in the gym, but pitch work was out of bounds.

"It was a frustrating time the last number of weeks, going down to training weekends and sitting it out," he recalls.

"It's all gym work and swimming. It's just not out on the pitch and it is frustrating not being out there on a fine summer's day.

"But to get myself back, from my point of view, it is fantastic. And I am delighted to be here."

In the Ulster semi-final, Down's Connaire Harrison delivered a performance for the ages against Monaghan stalwart Drew Wylie, who is considered one of the top-ranking full-backs in the country. Just to show it was no fluke, he repeated the trick in Croke Park last Saturday.

However, when he came up against the Tyrone defence in the Ulster decider, with Cavanagh marshalling everything and players tucking in to protect the pockets of space, he hardly got a kick.

"Tyrone play with Colm Cavanagh, one of the best sweepers in the country, with maybe a man either side of him at times," is how Harrison described the experience that awaits Armagh and, in particular, Jamie Clarke tomorrow

In the Ulster final of 2010, Cavanagh netted the winning goal to secure back-to-back titles, which were perhaps not properly appreciated in the county boundaries.

However, now that both Cavanagh brothers are in their thirties, things are different.

"I think as you get to my age and things are ticking on, you start to realise that it won't go on forever. Maybe I was a bit naive and when I started back in 2007, Ulster titles were coming and going," explains Colm.

"I don't have a pile of years left playing and you don't realise that until you get older. Time goes in very, very fast."

He continues: "It is true, you get older and things move on and you realise that these days mean far more to you than what they meant whenever I came into the panel.

"We were winning All-Irelands, putting Ulsters back-to-back and that was grand, took it with a pinch of salt, but now it means the world."

Tyrone become the last side left in the All-Ireland series to play in Croke Park tomorrow evening.

If the Cavanaghs are on form, they are likely to be there for another day at least.

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