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Monaghan v Tyrone: Cavanagh’s desire still burns brightly

By John Campbell

Sean Cavanagh has sampled a double helping of both agony and ecstacy spanning the past eight months.

The Moy clubman, such a vital cog in the Tyrone side for past nine years, spent the greater part of last winter recovering from ankle surgery that ruled out his involvement in the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup and also curtailed his input into the National League.

But a ray of sunshine infiltrated the gloom when he married Dr Fionnuala Vernon, sister of Armagh midfield ace Charlie, in December.

By the time 27-year-old accountant Cavanagh had regained full fitness, Tyrone had been relegated to Division Two of the National League.

But although the demotion occasioned depression and indeed considerable apprehension within the county, there is no doubt that the setback clearly served to sharpen the team’s edge for the Ulster Championship.

As he approaches tomorrow’s final against Monaghan at Clones he is delighted to be part of yet another Red Hands’ drive for a major trophy.

“At one stage towards the end of last year four Tyrone players, myself included, had gone under the knife and naturally in those circumstances you wonder if this will impact on your career,” he said.

“But thankfully we have all been able to get back to full fitness again and speaking for myself I’m really looking forward to meeting Monaghan tomorrow.

“Maybe we have managed to get the better of them in some of our games in recent years but they are undoubtedly very fired up for this and they are going to be very difficult opponents from every perspective.”

Tyrone may have had their travails in the earlier part of the year with a catalogue of injuries and the descent into Division Two threatening to fragment morale.

But that is now all water under the bridge as the Red Hands prepare to man the pumps for a match that many observers believe will give a true indication of the team’s present status.

And Cavanagh concedes that the players need to put in a very big performance tomorrow if they are to win over the doubters.

“People have been saying that we were not that impressive in beating both Antrim and Down in the Ulster Championship, but I thought we played well enough on both days to get the result,” he reasons.

“You have to give credit to opposing sides — they are now more accustomed to our style of play and can present problems for us.

“Monaghan have gained greatly in experience and no doubt they will have their homework well done on us.”

He enjoyed the best year of his career to date when he shared in Tyrone’s third All Ireland title and then captained the Ireland team to success in the International Rules in Australia.

But while he relished the honour of leading his country, all of his considerable energies now will be channelled into landing another Ulster crown tomorrow.

“Mickey Harte has quite rightly said that Tyrone aren’t coming down with Ulster titles and we still put great store by this honour,” he said. “It would be brilliant to win and get straight into the All Ireland quarter-finals. We want to stay on the direct course if at all possible, but Monaghan will be doing their best to make sure that this does not happen.”

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