Derry legend Enda Muldoon quits as Sean Cavanagh makes return
Two of Ulster’s greatest-ever players saw their careers take markedly contrasting turns on Thursday night.
Enda Muldoon, who is the only member of the current Derry squad to possess an Ulster championship medal having been in the successful 1998 squad, confirmed his retirement after serving his county for 15 years during which he gained iconic status.
And while Muldoon, who helped to pilot Ballinderry to All-Ireland club glory in 2002, slips into the shadows Sean Cavanagh re-emerges from the wings to make his first start for Tyrone since last summer against Galway in the National League on Sunday.
Muldoon, who was recently appointed to a full-time coaching role in Derry, proved one of the most versatile players of the past decade having performed at full-forward, midfield and half-forward for Derry.
His fielding ability, distribution and scoring prowess allied to his commitment and loyalty made him a role model for young players and a magnificent ambassador for his club and county.
Over the course of the past three years he was singularly unfortunate in terms of injuries having suffered a broken bone in his foot on two occasions, thus necessitating lengthy periods of recuperation.
Derry manager John Brennan had hoped that Muldoon, who first came to prominence as a Minor in 1996, would get back to full fitness and return to the Oak Leaf side but at 33 the Ballinderry powerhouse has surrendered to Father Time.
He was a central plank in the Ballinderry club side and his enormous contribution to their All-Ireland club triumph in 2002 under the baton of Brian McIver enhanced his reputation as one of the best midfielders ever to have come out of Ulster.
And indeed Cavanagh is also included in this elite grouping having already garnered three All-Ireland medals and captained Ireland to success in the International Rules series.
The Moy clubman has not played for Tyrone since their exit from the All-Ireland championship last year but will be back to partner Michael Murphy in the engine-room against Galway on Sunday in Tuam.
A shoulder injury that required surgery has kept Cavanagh sidelined but his return will bring a further helping of experience to a Red Hands side that has remained unbeaten since the start of the year.
Indeed, Cavanagh’s comeback will provide a timely boost for Tyrone’s promotion drive as victory over Galway would allow them plant one foot in Division One.
Like Muldoon, Cavanagh has displayed marked versatility having served his county at midfield, full-forward and wing-forward but it’s in the central area that he has distinguished himself since first making his mark while at colleges level with St Patrick’s GS Armagh.
He returns to a Tyrone side that also includes the recalled Jonathan Curran, Michael Murphy and Mark Donnelly.
Meanwhile, Former Cork All-Ireland winning captain Ben O’Connor called time on his 14-year inter county hurling career on Thursday night.
O’Connor, twice an Allstar and one of the most prominent Cork hurlers of the modern era, made his intentions known prior to a training session.
He had been substituted in the second half of Cork’s victory over Dublin in Croke Park last Sunday and struggled in that game. Clearly this has influenced a snap decision not to go on for the rest of the season.
His departure further depletes the bank of experience available to manager Jimmy Barry Murphy who had already lost Ronan Curran and Jerry O’Connor to retirement prior to the beginning of the season.