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Sean Cavanagh ready to tackle Australia

By Declan Bogue

Called up: Sean Cavanagh will be in the Irish side that faces Australia tomorrow evening

sEAN Cavanagh glows with the endorphins of a man freshly showered and tracksuited after a workout in chilly temperatures, two days before he gains his eleventh international cap for Ireland against Australia in Breffni Park.

He's sifting through one of his most memorable seasons yet.

He won an All-Star nomination, albeit in the cop-out position of wing-forward, and it was generally accepted that it was one of his finest seasons ever. Quite an achievement after making his way back from two successive detached tendon injuries in his shoulders.

Unfortunately, he will be remembered for one thing mainly – pulling down opponents in three successive games, culminating in severe criticism raining down on his head, led by Joe Brolly. He is a man playing an amateur sport yet for a while, some attempted to turn him into a hate figure.

We tend to forget that we nearly didn't have him at all in Gaelic games. He already had an All-Ireland and an All-Star tucked away when Brisbane Lions tried to lure him down under in 2004 with a rookie contract.

A year later, Carlton Blues came back with a full professional contract. Big bucks!

"It was hundreds of thousands of dollars," he casually lobs into the conversation, causing jaws to hit the floor.

"It's nice when you see it there in print but to me I had everything I wanted at home in Ireland. I was never motivated by money or going over and playing a sport I may not have enjoyed in a foreign land.

"To me, I am a bit of a home bird and we have as much here as anyone would want in Ireland."

So instead of making his fortune in Australia, he stays at home and represents Tyrone for pride, the odd character assassination notwithstanding. He is a partner in an ever-expanding accountancy practice, a father of two children and has three All-Irelands and four All-Stars, soon to become five.

This weekend, pulling down opponents will earn him cheers, not the jeers that rang out when he took Conor McManus out of the equation against Monaghan in the All-Ireland quarter-final. With both men in the Irish squad, there has been a fair bit of teasing about the incident.

Cavanagh reveals that bygones are bygones at this stage.

"Myself and Conor have probably spent more time together in this Irish camp than anyone," he said.

"I've never really worried too much about it because it's one of those things that if it was going to happen again, and it can't happen again because the black card is coming into play, but you would do it again.

"Every coach and every manager has told players somewhere along the line – it's not that Mickey Harte has told us to do it – it's just one of those unwritten rules.

"It's almost like a loophole in the rules that you have been coached from eight or nine years of age that it's probably a decent foul to take.

"At the same time I knew obviously exactly what I was doing, stopping a goal scoring opportunity. A goal at that stage would probably have changed the balance of play, but it's nothing I lost any sleep over."

Being an accountant, Cavanagh addresses the issue in risk/reward terms and maintains that it hasn't been allowed to endanger the spirit in the Irish camp.

"It's not an issue. It's one of those things players accept of one another. It would have been different if I had have led with an elbow or led with a fist and I was trying to intentionally hurt him. He completely understood what was happening and if it was the other way about he possibly would have done it to me," he said.

That was the low point of a long season. After getting back from injury, he wrung every drop out of it, playing 1,456 minutes from the first game in the McKenna Cup, to the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo; the most-utilised Tyrone player this season.

"I possibly will need a break for a couple of months. I have niggles and I have been eating anti-inflammatories for the last couple of months just to get my body through because I have picked up a few niggles, like most players."

He has earmarked most of November and December to let his body heal.

"And if Mickey (Harte) can give me a few minutes off the McKenna Cup this year it mightn't do me a bit of harm," he added

But for now, it is the Aussies that occupy his thoughts. He admits to looking forward to the Aboriginal war dance they are due to perform.

"I think the series did need an injection of something and maybe this indigenous squad is what it needed," he concluded.

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