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Cavanagh gets to grips with Mayo maestro

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte believes that Sean Cavanagh is poised to give what he labels "the best possible answer" to his critics when he goes toe to toe with Aidan O'Shea in Sunday week's All Ireland semi-final.

Cavanagh has been widely pilloried following a rugby-style tackle on Monaghan's Conor McManus which prevented the latter from registering what looked like a certain goal in the All-Ireland quarter-final between the teams.

Now Harte wants his three-time All-Ireland winning midfield ace to scale a new peak against man-mountain O'Shea whose towering engine-room performance was central to Mayo's stunning quarter-final win over Donegal.

"I think that Sean is one of the best players in the modern game and I believe that he will show further proof of this against Mayo," proclaims Harte.

"He will be up against an outstanding midfield partnership and as he is a player who generally thrives on the big stage I believe Sean will take advantage of this opportunity to once again show his true worth."

Harte has been stung by the brickbats hurled at Cavanagh following the win over Monaghan and indeed in the wake of e victory over Meath and has already launched a strident defence of the Moy clubman suggesting that he is "a very clean player".

And he adds: "Sean is more sinned against than being a sinner. He is a very clean player who has never been in trouble. He can give the best possible answer to the critics against Mayo."

Cavanagh himself has reminded all and sundry that he has never been sent off at club or county level and while he might have lived at the edge more of late, this has not prevented him from becoming Tyrone's outstanding player in the championship.

The enormity of the anticipated Cavanagh v O'Shea clash can be put further into context by the widely-held opinion that if the 2013 Allstars were being chosen today, then they would automatically form the midfield pairing.

But a lot of water has yet to flow under the bridge before the destination of the Sam Maguire Cup is decided.

And that's why Cavanagh is following a cautious pathway into the eagerly-awaited semi-final.

"A lot has been written and said about the quarter-final but it's over and done with. Mayo form a huge obstacle for us and they will be confident following that big win over Donegal. Very few people saw that coming," states Cavanagh.

With injuries and a possible double suspension suspension threatening to dilute Tyrone's experience, Cavanagh thinks that the game against Mayo could provide the opportunity for new heroes to emerge.

"We have boys in there who have been playing consistently well. Everyone will want to stand up to be counted against Mayo. When we lost to Donegal in the Ulster Championship Mickey Harte predicted that we would get this far and now that we are here we want to reach the final if we can," adds Harte, a busy accountant.

Whether they do or not will depend largely on his input.

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