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'Joe has a great way of making things about him almost': Sean Cavanagh opens up on infamous Brolly punditry moment after Tyrone tackle

Tyrone legend hits back at pundit's infamous attack after All-Ireland tie

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Tough talk: Sean Cavanagh has had his say on stinging criticism from pundit Joe Brolly

Tough talk: Sean Cavanagh has had his say on stinging criticism from pundit Joe Brolly

Tough talk: Sean Cavanagh has had his say on stinging criticism from pundit Joe Brolly

Former Tyrone legend Sean Cavanagh revisits some of the most controversial incidents of his long and successful career when he is the subject of TG4's long-running documentary series, Laochra Gael, this Thursday.

The Moy man won three senior All-Irelands with Tyrone, an All-Ireland Intermediate with his club, Moy Tír na nÓg, and was Footballer of the Year as well as captaining the Ireland International Rules team to victory in Australia in 2008.

However, he was embroiled in numerous controversies through that time, but remains unapologetic for his desire to achieve for his teams.

He has a word for pundit Joe Brolly, who famously launched a stinging attack on Cavanagh following Tyrone's narrow 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final win over Monaghan after he hauled opposing forward Conor McManus to the ground to prevent a possible goal-scoring opportunity.

"Joe has a great way of making things about him almost," says Cavanagh now, eight years on from the incident which remains one of the most discussed moments of televised Gaelic football punditry.

"Unfortunately, within the rules at that point in time, you could drag a player down and accept the yellow card. And it was difficult how Joe failed to see that," Cavanagh added.

"Anyone I spoke with around that time, including Conor McManus just moments after that game, had said to me, 'I would have done exactly the same thing as you if it had been the other way around'.

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"I remember getting a phone call from a business that I work with and they wouldn't have followed Gaelic football. I remember the guy saying to me, 'Sean, what have you done? There's all this stuff I am reading here about you cheating. Did you really hurt somebody? What did you do?'"

Cavanagh revealed that it was not the first time Brolly had been critical of him, citing a remark after Cavanagh had played on the Tyrone minor side that won the All-Ireland in 2001.

"He said that no-one that played for Tyrone there today would play at senior level. I had just reached the pinnacle of my entire footballing career and, apparently, I am not going to play senior for Tyrone!" As it happens, nine of that team went on to play for Tyrone, some becoming integral figures of their three senior All-Irelands.

Naturally, the parting of ways between himself and manager Mickey Harte is touched upon, with the publication of Harte's 2009 autobiography a cause of pain for Cavanagh following claims that Cavanagh could not handle the pressure of multiple commitments in the 2009 season after he fell ill the night before the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork.

"It was hurtful," says Cavanagh. "It was something that at the time I didn't feel was right.

"It probably wasn't until February or March of 2010 that Mickey came to my house and sat with myself and (my wife) Fionnuala and said the ghost writer had written that, that it wasn't him. And he apologised for it.

"I suppose that was difficult for me to accept, given the fact that it was his book and it was a key headline and I was a key player for him at that point in time.

"I parked it and moved on as quickly as I could and was playing good football.

"There were plenty of my friends and family who whenever they wanted to get in under my skin a bit, they would do a few chants of 'The roof, the roof, the roof has caved in.' There was a bit of craic with it."

Following a club game against Edendork a couple of years back, Cavanagh posted a picture of his facial injuries afterwards.

He lifted the lid on the Omerta surrounding violence in club games, saying: "I have had teeth knocked out a few times. Off the balls, on the ball I have taken a lot of physical abuse.

"You don't want to be seen as the person who rats someone else out, but until someone is brave enough to come out and speak about it, to challenge the authorities, it is only at that point that real change will happen.

"It's for my babies, Sean at two, and Lorcan at five, six months. I would like to see a chance so that they are protected."

He also discusses an episode when he was found wandering the roads after being sent off during the 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo.

"I was trying to understand what had happened on a football field and it quickly descended into being miles away from The Moy itself and I had to get picked up by a taxi driver in Dungannon at, maybe, one in the morning.

"I felt ashamed that I had let down my family, that I had let my kids down, my club down, my entire county. This was meant to be my last season and in my last year I had just let everyone down.

"Halfway through that walk, I had turned already to 'I have to fix this. I have to make this better for me and Tyrone'."


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