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Tyrone won't take the Anglo-Celt for granted: Cavanagh

By Declan Bogue

Published 05/07/2016

Captain marvel: Sean Cavanagh will lead the Red Hands into the Ulster Championship final against old rivals Donegal
Captain marvel: Sean Cavanagh will lead the Red Hands into the Ulster Championship final against old rivals Donegal
Peter Harte

Six years of painful separation has left Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh vowing that he and his county will never take the Ulster Championship for granted again.

In 2010, Brian Dooher was the last man to lift the Anglo-Celt for Mickey Harte's side, their third in four years at that point.

Nobody could have foreseen that Tyrone would not reach their next final for six seasons, by virtue of Sunday's comprehensive five-goal filleting of Cavan in the semi-final replay.

Cavanagh recalls that evening and the sense of detachment now with bemusement.

"I can remember back in '07, '09, '10, standing here after winning the Anglo Celt Cup and saying, 'do you know what, it doesn't make a difference.' It was a step along the journey," says the 33-year-old chartered accountant.

"It's been a long time since that happened and we did take it for granted and we know that it would be a big feather in our cap.

"The likes of the Mattie Donnelly's, the Tiernan McCann's, guys that are fantastic footballers, they haven't won Ulster medals and they are going to be chomping at the bit to get that Ulster medal." With Monaghan and Donegal being on the same side of the draw this year, this represents a dream Ulster final pairing. Neighbours, with no love lost.

The statistic that jumps out though, is that while Tyrone have not made it to the final for the past six seasons, Donegal have shown up every single year. And in that time, beaten Tyrone four times.

"Whenever you are repeatedly losing to any team, whether it's Donegal or anyone else, it is always painful. They have had that upper hand and fair play to them," said Cavanagh.

"They have had a serious five or six years and you would just hope at some stage the tide would turn and it would be our chance.

"They have been able to go to the well whenever they needed to against good teams like Monaghan and as much as we have done reasonably well this year we haven't played a Division One team, so it's another step in the ladder and you have to climb that ladder to get to where you want to go."

From the team that lost to Donegal in that changing of the guard semi-final in 2011, only Peter Harte, Cavanagh and the McMahon brothers remain. Coincidentally, along with Cathal McCarron, they are the only players in the squad that have featured in an Ulster final.

Asked if they are a better team now, Cavanagh responds: "We definitely have the runners, we have serious running power at the moment. The way the game has gone you need that.

"It's a different game, our size is different, personnel is different and you would hope that it will go a long way to getting a different result."

As for the lack of Ulster final experience and the captain's role in talking team mates through the next fortnight, Cavanagh flips the logic on its head, saying: "There are two sides to that. You would hope there is a certain hunger now in our squad to go into the Ulster final with.

"If it's an Ulster final or a first round against Derry in the rain, you always try to pass on any wee nuggets of knowledge you have or experiences you have had along the way.

"Every game does take on a life of its own so you just have to adapt and things will change on any given day."

Belfast Telegraph

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