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Midfield ace Colm Cavanagh calling the shots for Red Hands

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has never made any secret of his desire to see players under his command exhibit versatility and adaptability.

But even the demanding Red Hands boss could hardly be more satisfied with the level of flexibility which has been inherent in his unbeaten side as they put the final touches to preparations for Sunday's Allianz League Division Two final against Cavan at Croke Park.

In a team laden with experience yet nonetheless according a concession to youth, perhaps the most significant role is currently filled by Colm Cavanagh - and this could prove a blessing in disguise come Sunday.

Cavanagh's transformation from workaholic midfield ace to that of an assured, commanding sweeper is a vital component of Tyrone's strategy but the Moy clubman's many-sided talents will be put under the microscope when he now comes up against another player who has undergone a similar metamorphosis.

Cavan skipper Gearoid McKiernan has not only slotted in comfortably as his team's playmaker at centre-half-forward this year after several seasons in the midfield sector but he has scored 1-24 in the league to date - and Cavanagh takes full heed of the warning that lies therein.

"Cavan will have gained considerably in confidence from getting into Division One and the fact that we beat them earlier in the league by two points will count for nothing," insists Cavanagh.

"When you look at the spread of scorers within their side, you know that the threats can come from anywhere and this will surely help to keep us on our toes from the word go."

Ronan O'Neill's new-found lease of life as a corner forward after starting his career on the '40', Mattie Donnelly's emergence as a midfielder of real quality having flirted with half-back and half-forward roles in the past, the deployment of Sean Cavanagh's guile and power at full-forward after his lengthy service in the engine-room and Peter Harte's ability to link play from left-half-back after initially pulling the strings in the No 11 shirt all combine to give Tyrone a new-found air of authority.

Harte, though, is likely to miss out on Sunday's game because of a troublesome AC Joint injury and this prompts Colm Cavanagh to touch on what he believes to have been a key element in the Red Hands' progress to date.

"The game nowadays is such that you need guys on the bench who can come on and do their stuff," states Cavanagh.

"Competition for starting places within this side is fierce but we all know it is every bit as important that the boys who come on from the bench are able to make their contribution."

It's a sentiment that is shared by McKiernan.

"It's up to all the boys to push themselves on. The players have actually taken on a bit more responsibility away from the training sessions and the substitutes who have been coming on have been doing their bit big-time," says McKiernan.

And while his team's focus is on Tyrone, next month's Ulster Championship quarter-final against Armagh is very much on the Breffni County radar.

"We hope to be able to match Tyrone and if we can do that it will be great preparation for our game against Armagh which will be our biggest game of 2016," he states.

"There is a cup at stake on Sunday and having come this far we would now like to win it," adds McKiernan.



National Football League Division Two Final:

Croke Park, Sunday, 1.30 pm

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