Cavanagh would have considered retirement had Tyrone lifted Sam

COLM CAVANAGH IS one of just two players in the Tyrone squad with a Celtic Cross in his back pocket, along with Cathal McCarron who missed out through injury on Sunday.

Colm and Sean Cavanagh lift the Sam Maguire in 2008

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Cavanagh played a part in the Red Hand’s last senior success of 2008, arriving off the bench as a 68th minute substitute for Tommy McGuigan to help Tyrone see out a four-point final victory over Kerry. 

The years have passed quickly.

Yesterday Cavanagh was back in his first September decider since. While Tyrone gave a good account of themselves and certainly laid the ghosts of the 2017 semi-final to rest, they didn’t have quite enough to halt the Dublin juggernaut. 

Cavanagh admitted the prospect of sailing off into the sunset had they been victorious crossed his mind, but Tyrone’s six-point defeat means he’ll return for another crack at the Sam Maguire in 2019.

“Look, I toyed with this,” he said after the game. “I laughed and joked with the boys that if we were to win something this year I could see my days out. I did consider it this year – if we had’ve won.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I’m 31 years of age now, I’m not getting any younger. A lot of these guys are making it harder and harder to come back and compete with.

“However, I don’t know whether I could go out like that. There’s serious potential in this team, we’ve developed a great bond over the last number of months. Moy won an All-Ireland this year and I came in late to the panel, and it took me a wee while to adjust and get back into the scene.

“But to see how the group dynamic evolved over the couple of months through the qualifier run was unbelievable. I think we have a really strong group there who enjoy each other’s company and will go to the well for each other.

“That’s important, and that can hopefully go well for us next year.”

Cavanagh is expected to win an All-Star at midfield but he did the majority of his most important work at either end of the field against the Dubs.

The Moy veteran dropped back in his customary sweeper role while Tyrone were without possession for the first three quarters, before Mickey Harte pushed him into full-forward as they chased the game.

Cavanagh used all his experience to win a late penalty off Philly McMahon that Peter Harte converted to give the Red Hand a slim chance in the closing stages, but Dublin had enough in the tank to seal their fourth All-Ireland in succession.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“To be honest I think the fast start was unbelievable and we shocked ourselves in a way going 5-1 up,” Cavanagh said.

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“We seemed to go into a panic mode, which is crazy to think because we felt we could manage the game if we went 5-1 up. But we were reckless, we kicked shots away and we made bad decisions. Had that not been the case, it could have been a very different end to the first half.

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“It turned out that Dublin got a point back, got the goal and it really took the stuffing out of us and it was very hard to recover after they done that.

“That first 20 minutes we’ll probably look back on the hardest and say ‘why were wee not a wee bit better and put Dublin under pressure?’ 

“You aim to start every game fast, however I think we were in a wee bit of shock that we were doing so well, the scores were going over, we were kicking the ball in, we were winning the play. Everything you’d dream of at the start of an All-Ireland final.

“That’s probably the hardest thing to take in that we took shots on from angles we shouldn’t have and we were making the wrong choice.

“Had it been different and we tried to play Dublin at their own game and keep the ball and made them come out on us, we could have been in such a better position.

“But that’s sport and it’s hard to get that message out whenever the crowd is rocking to keep the ball and be smart.”

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Did a lack of All-Ireland final day experience cost Tyrone after their impressive start?

“It’s a fair point. It’s a big occasion, everyone wants to do their best and impress. Yeah, potentially a wee bit at crucial times and the game management part of it wasn’t what it should have been.

“And I know that – I’m not trying to have a go at anyone. We just know that we didn’t manage the game well at a crucial time. To be honest we were totally in control and Dublin were under pressure.

“But look, the next part after that 20 minutes, you have to give credit where credit is due. They put us to the sword and they got the scores and their game management was brilliant. 

“Maybe it was the shock factor, maybe it was the experience, it’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong after that for that 10 or 15 minutes before half-time. We were out on our feet and we were lucky just to go in with the margin we did.”

He was involved in an early collision and took a worrying bang to the knee, but he managed to return to the play. Cavanagh says he wasn’t overly concerned it might be a serious injury.

“I think it was Niall Scully who came through and he tumbled and sort of caught my knee.

“I thought something had happened but I heard no snaps or anything. They tell you as long as you don’t hear a snap you’re okay.”

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