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Cool Cavanagh out to wrap up his Ulster career in style

By Declan Bogue

Sometimes the numbers are just staggering when it comes to assessing Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh's career. Tomorrow's Ulster final against Down will be the 87th time he pulls on the Red Hands jersey in the Championship. That's some amount of minutes in a do-or-die environment.

It has been a full 15 seasons since he played in his first Ulster final - the 2003 edition, also against Down - and having confirmed numerous times that 2017 is his final hurrah with Tyrone, this occasion neatly bookends his career.

Having said all that, his preparation remains the same for any final.

"I remember that final (in 2003) in particular because I was recovering that year from an ankle injury so I was sort of trying to rest up the ankle and get myself right," said the 34-year-old.

"Like any final, you manage yourself, you keep yourself right and don't get too caught up in the whole excitement in the county and in your club and community.

"Don't get me wrong, it's a nice week, it's a nice time and despite the fact that we won it last year there is no doubt there is an awful lot of excitement in Tyrone. There would be as much excitement and hunger in Down too, of course."

One thing that Cavanagh will be well aware of is how little Down teams historically fear Tyrone. In their last Championship meeting in May 2014, the Mournemen hit 2-3 in an eight-minute spell to jump into the lead going down the stretch. It took two late Cavanagh frees to rescue a replay.

He said: "You could look at all those games, they had us beaten in 2003 and it was only Greg McCartan's sending off that allowed us back into that game.

"And then in 2008 we had three opportunities to kill the game on the first day and they took us to extra-time.

"In 2014 they had us beaten up in Omagh, only we got a couple of late scores to equalise but they could have walked away with that as well. Down will fancy their chances as much as we will on Sunday. That's something that we have to respect as a team and whenever a Down team has confidence, they have the skill and the players."

If there is a comparison, then he attaches it to the St Mary's College side that won the Sigerson Cup this season. There is a certain symmetry in that Paddy Tally - Tyrone trainer in 2003 - is their manager.

"People might say that they are underdogs but look at the players and individuals they have," warned Cavanagh, who admitted that Tyrone's thirst to rule Ulster had returned.

"You only have to look at the way we approached last year's Ulster win. We probably over-celebrated it to a certain extent.

"But from watching Donegal and Monaghan dominate Ulster for the previous five or six years, seeing their captains climb the steps to collect the Anglo-Celt certainly does something to re-ignite the fierce hunger for the Ulster title.

"The older generation that played through the Noughties, maybe we didn't celebrate it as much as we should have.

"But over the last few years we understand clearly what it means to a county to win their province. If we win on Sunday it will be celebrated far and wide in Tyrone."

Belfast Telegraph


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