Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Tyrone's marathon man Cavanagh had busy 2013, but McManus challenge stands out

Tyrone player Sean Cavanagh at Moy GAA

THERE'S some numbers that shows you what kind of year Sean Cavanagh put in with his football in 2013.

From the moment the ball was thrown up in their very first match against Derry, he was competing. And at the finish of the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo, he was still there on the pitch. He was only taken off once, against Antrim the group stages of the McKenna Cup.

He made 21 appearances and played 1,456 minutes in total, 140 minutes more than his nearest rival in Ulster, his county team-mate Cathal McCarron.

On the scoreboard, he notched 1-65 – 1-27 of that was from open play, accounting for just under 20% of Tyrone's scores throughout a year in which he only became the designated freetaker after Niall Morgan injured his knee ligaments following the Ulster Championship defeat to Donegal.

These figures, simply, are astonishing. That they were gathered by a midfielder makes it incredible.

He then went on to play late into the year for his club, Moy, and secured the Cormac McAnallen Cup with Ireland against Australia in the International Rules code. Earlier in the year, he won the Inter-Provincial Cup with Ulster.

Yet Sean Cavanagh's year will be remembered by the vast majority as the year he pulled Conor McManus down as he went through on goal in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

It demeans both Cavanagh, and the serious point and genuine reaction from Joe Brolly, that such a sideshow should have continued for far too long, with all sorts of clowns putting in their opinion, dressed up and presented as 'news.'

No wonder, with all that output, that Sean Cavanagh (pictured) has been taking it easy over the past few months.

"Some players will always go to the gym or do a wee bit on their own. I just felt, and as I was carrying a couple of injuries towards the end of the season, that, you know what, it's been a long year," he practically sighs, a man clearly looking forward to some time off around Christmas.

"Even psychologically," he continues, "the years that we even did do well and got to a final and won ... As much as you say to yourself that you could carry it on to the next year, it never quite works out like that.

"Donegal this year, it appeared that a few of them maybe ran out of a bit of steam mid-season. I know most teams now, it's almost like a competition to see who can get started the fastest."

He continues on the theme, "From my own view anyway, I always had a good benefit from a break away. Even psychologically to get that wee bit of bite back that you need to be able to throw yourself back into a season.

"We won't be going gung-ho until after Christmas, I think that rest will do us good."

When he was coming back from his shoulder injuries, a morning game of squash with his brother Colm was woven into the pattern of their days. The squash racquets haven't been called upon this winter.

"Whenever you are training," he explains, "you put all into it and you would be back training five, six times a week. You would like to think it wouldn't take long to get up to that level of fitness again, but after the season I personally was involved in, with Railway Cups and International Rules, and making it to the semi-finals of the Championships ...

"I have just had an awful lot of football in the one year and haven't really had a proper break since my injury."

When he does get back into the swing of things, he comes back as the Tyrone captain. An inventory of injuries will some day be compiled upon him and it will make for morbid reading.

Yet, because he is a big man, his injuries have never given anyone the impression that he is anything less than indestructible.

Rules are changing in the game, but possibly too late for Cavanagh. In defending himself against committing the tackle on Conor McManus, he was quick to remind everyone that he has never been sent off for Tyrone.

Unlike his manager, he is already a big fan of the black card.

"The reasons behind them, I totally believe in and would love to play a game of football whereby you run freely and you are able to break the line time and time again, as opposed to somebody trying to shoulder you, block you or pull you down. The idea is right, but the application is going to be key," he concludes.

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