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Red Hands can seize All-Ireland chance: Sean Cavanagh

 

By Declan Bogue

Sean Cavanagh sits down to talk in a Croke Park room, dressed just as you might imagine an accountant on a dress-down day. A smart polo shirt. Chinos. Nifty shoes, heading into casual territory.

But no watch.

This is astonishing for a number of reasons, chief among them that as soon as this gig finishes, he is off to Carton House to meet the rest of the Tyrone squad and management for what has become something of a controversial training weekend away.

Club games were on. Then they were off. People got annoyed. Letters were made public. The Red Hands are still going away on what is a technically not exactly within the rules training weekend. Same as Donegal, same as Monaghan.

And tomorrow night, Cavanagh will line out for his club, the Moy, in an important league game against Eskra.

Add that to his commitments in setting up a brand new accountancy practice in his own name, and you begin to wonder at his customary 'ah shucks' unhurried nature.

"I know the games had initially been pencilled in for last Thursday night, that allows us to go ahead and maybe do a bit more physically over the weekend," he explains.

"But it is what it is, I think there were issues getting guys home from England and Scotland and we were happy enough for it to be pushed back to Sunday evening."

Once he gets home from football having been away all weekend, he will grab a few hours with his daughters Eva and Clara, see his wife Fionnuala, before considering a week of establishing his brand having spent the past 14 years getting what he calls an excellent grounding at his uncle's firm, CavanaghKelly, in Dungannon.

"As weird as it sounds, I love being an accountant as well," he says with a grin.

"I get a kick out of it, I get a real buzz out of it and one of my ambitions in life was to go and set up my own practice. This might be the transition year where I am getting ready for the next chapter of my life. That's probably behind the reasoning of making the decision now."

Last winter, he made it known through his recently-established Twitter account that he was going to have one more rattle at inter-county football. 'One for the road' was how he put it, and you have to marvel at his energy levels.

In an era when the likes of Darran O'Sullivan, Declan O'Sullivan and Karl Lacey openly admit to giving up their work for part of or an entire season in order to concentrate on Gaelic football, Cavanagh is not trying to be macho about it, but he feels it is a worrying development.

"I have always had the view that you can only train hard for a certain amount of hours a day," he says.

"I have always been able to enjoy working hard from nine to five or nine to six and really focus my energies there, and then take that energy to go out and play Gaelic football, to clear my head and re-energise myself for the next day."

You can hardly argue with it. He is 34 now, having started with Tyrone as a teenager on Art McRory and Eugene McKenna's team for a season before Mickey Harte came in and changed everything.

Through that time, Cavanagh has suffered injury, his reputation and character came under question in one ludicrous misjudgement of punditry, but his appetite for Gaelic football has never wavered.

Recent weeks might easily have done that to him though.

After a promising opening to the National League, wins over Roscommon, Monaghan and Cavan sandwiched by a draw against a seemingly unbeatable Dublin side, things fell away with depressing defeats to Donegal, Mayo and Kerry. Prior to the final league game in Killarney, Tyrone only scored one goal during the league campaign, that coming from defender Aidan McCrory.

The team that were bagging goals for fun last year have now dried up.

There was a suggestion that a recent team meeting opened the floor up for discussion, and one of the key points rammed home was the need to allow their attackers the system to thrive in.

Cavanagh rebukes that and instead feels that they got caught flat-footed twice away from home against Kerry and Donegal.

"We came up against two good sides playing at home and whilst that maybe shocked us a little, I think it shocked us at the right time of the year and hopefully we'll be a stronger animal for it," he believes.

If this is the last hurrah, experience has gifted him the knowledge that a flat league campaign can be turned around in time for the height of the summer.

But he also lets a little chink of light through that we can expect a slightly different Tyrone than their ultra-conservative approach that cost them in the latter half of the league.

"There's no doubt that we will be slightly different in how we approach games in the summer, for better or for worse that remains to be seen, but I know we'll take an awful lot of learnings out of those games," he says.

If there is such a thing as a secret weapon for Tyrone, the cover was blown on Lee Brennan last weekend.

The Trillick youngster is the younger brother of Rory and only got a handful of minutes in the league. Playing against Strabane last weekend, he scored 3-14.

"I think we have as much talent as any county in Ireland, it's just trying to channel that in the right way," says his county captain.

"If he can score a third of that in any game he plays for us, the 3-14 thing is astronomical. When I saw that coming through at the weekend I was shaking my head."

Derry in the first round is five weeks away. Tyrone have a lot to get ready. As ever, their fortunes will be compelling.

Belfast Telegraph

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