Sean Cavanagh's class can help Tyrone boss Mickey Harte keep his promise
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has reason to be grateful that Sean Cavanagh continues to prove a rich source of scores within his side.
The Moy clubman landed four points (three frees) in the 1-11 to 0-12 win over Kildare at the week-end and will again be the midfield anchor when the Red Hands confront beaten Leinster finalists Meath in the fourth round of the qualifiers on Saturday.
But this time round the long-serving Cavanagh could have a new engine-room partner.
Aidan Cassidy, the Augher clubman who has had to deal with more than his fair share of injuries over the past two years, made a big impact when he was introduced for Cavanagh's younger brother Colm in the 43rd minute against Kieran McGeeney's side.
It's the elder Cavanagh, though, who continues to prove the mainstay of a Tyrone side that is on the cusp of fulfiling a promise made by manager Mickey Harte in the wake of his team's Ulster Championship quarter-final defeat by Donegal in Ballybofey in May.
On that occasion Harte predicted that Tyrone could still make it into the last eight of the All-Ireland series and if they manage to overcome Meath on Saturday they will have earned the right to be drawn against one of the provincial champions – Monaghan, Dublin, Mayo or Kerry – in the quarter-finals.
It's a fascinating scenario but both Sean Cavanagh and Mickey Harte are cautiously taking one step at a time.
Cavanagh's immense contribution to Tyrone's progress has to some extent been overlooked because of the form of younger players such as Darren McCurry, Conor Clarke and Ryan McKenna, but he nonetheless continues to be the team's main ball-winning agent in the central area, a role he has filled for a decade now.
"It's great to still be in the hunt for 'Sam' with this changed line-up. There is terrific competition for places and that's what is keeping everyone on their toes," points out Cavanagh.
Manager Harte, who has tweaked his side at regular intervals this term, may now decide to opt for Cassidy while Dermot Carlin, Connor McAliskey, Kyle Coney and Justin McMahon are also eyeing starring places against Meath.
"We are only one game away now from a quarter-final place which is pleasing, but Meath will obviously have the same target in their sights," said Harte.
"They had a good Leinster final against Dublin and have been playing attractive football so far. They have a lot of new players and they will be a big challenge for us on Saturday."
Meath have certainly made an impression this summer following their league campaign which only caught fire in the latter stages after they had initially flirted with relegation.
Their manager Mick O'Dowd has introduced some exceptionally talented players including Eamon Wallace, Padraic Harnan and Michael Newman who have made a big impact so far.
They are in alongside more experienced players such as Graham Reilly, Seamus Kenny, Kevin Reilly, Brian Meade and Peadar Byrne.