It will be even harder next year, says Colm Cavanagh
Colm Cavanagh had grown accustomed to living in the considerable shadow of his older brother Sean for some time following his introduction to the Tyrone football team in 2007.
Now, as he looks forward to completing a decade of service with the Red Hands, the 'other' Cavanagh is regarded as one of the mainstays of the side, his ability to dovetail between midfield and defence an important tenet of manager Mickey Harte's strategy.
And just as he benefited from a warm welcome when given his inter-county baptism, Colm is himself preparing to encourage an anticipated raft of new talent as Harte steps up the quest to strengthen his team even further.
"Following the Tyrone championship we will be taking a break for several weeks before we re-group later in the year, but even now I can predict with certainty that competition for places in the side will be even keener next year," stated Cavanagh, an accountant.
"We are going to have to put in a great deal of work, a lot of hard yards in training, if we want to retain our Ulster title. We will have to start the process going for another year and we are all aware that winning places in Mickey's starting teams will be anything but easy for each and every one of us."
Harte successfully introduced Cathal McShane and Niall Sludden to his side this year and both have set the benchmark for those other members of the squad who have yet to nail down regular places in the team to step up their challenge for recognition.
"Obviously we have to wait until Mickey gets round to naming his panel but you would imagine that most of the boys will be available next year again," added Cavanagh.
"A number of players have been pushing the rest of us strongly for places all year and this competition is going to become even more fierce for 2017. It's all about the team and the 30-odd men that are pushing for the 15 starting slots."
"Everyone in the panel believes he can do a job for Mickey and that's as it should be. I suppose you could say it's all about making the most of the opportunity when that arises. I think boys have come in from the substitutes' bench this year, got a good taste of action and will undoubtedly want more."
"This can only be for the good of Tyrone football and perhaps help to drive us all on to more success next year."
Meanwhile, Kieran McGeeney has as expected been re-appointed as Armagh manager for another year with Aidan O'Rourke as his assistant.
McGeeney is currently taking stock of his playing resources as the county championship swings into top gear and is expected to draft more fresh faces into his panel for the 2017 campaign.