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Don't put Dublin on a pedestal yet: Sean Cavanagh

By John Campbell

The notion that Dublin only have to go through the motions in order to make it back-to-back All-Ireland titles has gained substantially in credence since their clinical demolition job on luckless Derry in the Allianz League final.

Everywhere, it seems, Jim Gavin's side are being regarded as hotter than hot favourites to keep custody of the Sam Maguire and furthermore to extend their dominance in the competition into the foreseeable future.

But Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh does not quite see the Dubs merely cantering past the winning post with every other county wallowing in their slipstream.

The strapping Moy clubman has engaged in several ferocious battles with the metropolitan outfit and makes no secret of his admiration for their style, fitness and attitude.

Cavanagh, however, stops short of eulogising the Dubs to the extent that he would be prepared to concede their right to the All-Ireland title at this juncture.

"There is definitely a sense out there that Dublin are looking invincible but I wouldn't go so far as to say that their winning of the All-Ireland title is a foregone conclusion," states Cavanagh.

"I know how hard it is to defend an All-Ireland title and that's the basis on which I place my thinking. We have tried to mount a defence of the title on three occasions but never managed to get over the line."

As Tyrone gear up to face Down on Sunday week in the Ulster championship, Cavanagh is conscious that there is a high level of expectation within the county, particularly in the wake of the team's rather disappointing end to their league campaign which saw them lose out on a semi-final place.

Yet he is convinced that the wave of optimism in the Red Hand county is nothing compared to the pressure under which the Dublin players and management currently find themselves.

"There are massive expectations surrounding this Dublin team, even more so now that they have won the league so convincingly," points out Cavanagh.

"Somewhere along the line those Dublin players might possibly run out of a bit of steam and maybe they will be caught. But to be fair if you were to take things on current form, you would have to say that Dublin boast the strongest panel of players in the country.

"I think everyone recognises this but the reason why crowds flock to championship matches in such big numbers is because they know that on any given day a fancied side can be caught.

"Dublin's players will know that as well, of course. But although they are the bookies' favourites I would not have their name on the cup just yet. There may come a time during the summer that Dublin will be put to the pin of their collar and some team will have the chance to beat them.

"If this does not happen, then you would have to bow down to them because they definitely would be the ultimate team."

Cavanagh will be at the helm of a Tyrone side that makes no secret of its desire to reclaim 'Sam' after a six-year lapse but the 31-year-old midfield ace, one of the greatest players ever to have emerged from Ulster and a frontline ambassador for the sport, is candidly frank in his assessment of his team's prospects.

"We had a bit of patchy form during the league, particularly against Kerry in the second-half and against the Dublin in the early stages. Apart from things like this, we had a reasonable league. I thought we acquitted ourselves quite well but we have to work on getting better starts to games," insists Cavanagh.

"Last year we had maybe 15 or 16 new panellists but this year they are a year older and a year wiser. They will be the better for this and in consequence we can be a better team. I think it is clear that there is a level of maturity coming through and we are hopeful that our injuries will continue to clear up."

Joe McMahon and Ronan McNamee have been ruled out of the game against Down while there are still question marks over the fitness of Conor McAliskey and Colm Cavanagh.

Belfast Telegraph

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