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Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh straight back on glory trail

By John Campbell

Sean Cavanagh had played precisely 20 minutes of competitive football this year prior to leading Tyrone to their third successive Power NI Dr McKenna Cup triumph on Wednesday night.

It was in a cameo role as a second-half substitute against Mayo on Sunday week last that Cavanagh somewhat gingerly dipped his toe into the competitive waters again following an absence because of a groin problem.

But his value to the Red Hands was underlined when manager Mickey Harte thrust him in from the start against a fired-up Cavan side at the Athletic Grounds and now having taken delivery of one trophy Cavanagh finds himself on the threshold of a second significant medal in five days.

His experience, leadership and versatility helped to underpin Tyrone's latest McKenna Cup triumph. He formed the midfield pairing with Niall McKenna before switching to centrethreequarters after the break from where he initiated a number of attacks as Tyrone gradually took control of the game.

Cavan's first-half flourish proved something of a false dawn as the Red Hands powered forward at every opportunity with substitutes Paddy McNeice and Ciaran McGinley adding to the team's scoring power, the former landing two particularly fine points.

Conan Grugan made a useful contribution having replaced Cavanagh in the engine-room while Kyle Coney's explosive finishing – he secured four points – proved too much for an over-worked Cavan defence.

Indeed, such was Tyrone's dominance that Terry Hyland's side were restricted to just three points after the break.

For skipper Cavanagh the win was immensely satisfying coming after his protracted spell in the shadows and now he is hoping to make an impact in Ulster's colours against Connacht in the inter-provincial decider at Tuam Stadium on Sunday.

Like the rest of the side, he is conscious that a high-octane contest can go some way towards restoring a semblance of credibility to what is clearly an ailing tournament.

When Ulster got the better of Leinster last Sunday there were 294 spectators in attendance while barely 100 bothered to turn up for the meeting of Connacht and Munster in the other semi-final.

Little wonder, then, that Cavanagh and his colleagues are anxious to put a fresh gloss on the competition on Sunday.

"I was delighted to lead Tyrone to the McKenna Cup again on Wednesday and it was certainly satisfying given that there were a number of changes to the team from that which beat Mayo," reflects Cavanagh. "Now I would like to think that Ulster could bring the curtain down in style on what could prove a good week for football."

Ulster manager Joe Kernan, unlike his Tyrone counterpart Harte, finds his selection options rather curtailed whereas the Red Hands boss fielded a team against Cavan that included only four players that started in the last league game against Mayo and still won the trophy!

It is doubtful if any other manager could do that and Kernan has all the more reason to be grateful to the Tyrone boss and indeed the other managers for the co-operation that they have shown him to date.

"I have got a great response from managers in terms of making players available to me and I would hope we can repay this by winning the inter-pro series for the third time on the trot. It won't be easy because of the quality contained in the Connacht team," maintains Kernan.

Conor McManus, Michael Murphy, Cian Mackey, Rory Beggan, Neil McGee and Karl Lacey will help underpin the Ulster team while Connacht will look to Cathal Cregg, Aidan O'Shea and Kevin McLoughlin to provide them with the momentum which manager John Tobin hopes might prove too much for the title holders.

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