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Tyrone ace Cavanagh is enjoying his place in the sun

By Declan Bogue

It was only last Wednesday that Colm Cavanagh got the type of request every footballer secretly harbours - a late call-up for the All-Star trip.

The Tyrone midfielder-cum-sweeper was a nominee this year and earned a call up as a replacement, therefore boarding the Wednesday morning flight from Dublin with wife Levina to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Recently the Moy man changed his place of employment and while a short-notice request would have flown through with Cavanagh-Kelly accountancy, where his brother Sean remains, he was thankful for the bank of annual leave he had with new bosses, Dunbia.

"There was no issues about shooting off, I had plenty of annual leave left. It was a bit short notice but I got there in the end," he said after playing in the exhibition game.

He laughed, "It was tough going actually, at the same time there was a nice breeze, it was almost perfect conditions, you wouldn't be playing in it day in, day out. The sun cream in the eyes didn't help!"

The Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi hosted the exhibition game between the 2015 and 2016 All-Stars.

The main 43,000-seater stadium features on the United Arab Emirates 200 Dirham note.

While the game was going on, a large dome a few yards from the bottom goals had a rock band practising inside, while a sand volleyball tournament was in full swing a couple of hundred yards away in the vast complex. Local GAA officials informed this writer that it costs £170 per hour to rent the pitches when they play football, camogie and hurling on a Saturday.

The touring party from Ireland produced one of those typical exhibition games, high on goals, low on points and absent of the usual exchanges when any of the most skilled practitioners of the game normally play.

The game was also contested in stifling gulf heat and anyone with a heart would have winced for the skin of Peter Harte - surely the fairest man in the region - under that sun.

Of course, his uncle Mickey was one of the travelling managers for the tour and it is a well-told tale how he insisted on making All-Star games competitive in his previous tours.

The Tyrone contingent was completed by Cathal McCarron and Mattie Donnelly. Donegal were represented by Michael Murphy, Neil Gallagher and Ryan McHugh while Monaghan's Conor McManus and Karl O'Connell were also enjoying a rare opportunity to play a social game of Gaelic football.

For an amateur organisation, this is one of the perks of being a consistent performer, something Cavanagh was entirely grateful for when he said, "The tour has been fantastic so far. There have been a few things organised we | have got to and everything has went smoothly and it's fantastic to be asked out here."

Looking ahead to next year and Tyrone, Colm insisted that he always knew elder brother Sean was going to report for another season.

"I suppose he had to do a bit of evaluation after last year, after how it went for him personally and us as a team," explained Colm.

"We fell short against Mayo in the quarter-final, but we feel we had an opportunity there. It probably was the hardest one to take for him. He keeps himself on good running order, was training away doing bits and pieces and keeping ticking over.

"I just knew by him that as long as he was fit and healthy, I knew he would be back."

In the few weeks between now, with some of the Tyrone panel back in training and the end of the league games in the county, the Cavanagh brothers satisfied their competitive instincts with casual basketball games.

"It's one thing every single year we do play and it has good transferable skills," he said.

2016 All-Stars (13-a-side): D. Clarke (Mayo); D. Kyne (Galway), R. McHugh (Donegal), R. Kiely (Tipperary), K. Martin (Westmeath) 1-0; P. Acheson (Tipperary) 1-2, M. Donnelly (Tyrone) 1-1; P. Harte (do) 0-2, M. Quinlivan (Tipperary) 2-2, C. Sweeney (do) 2-1; C. Kilkenny (Dublin) 3-2, P. Geaney (Kerry) 1-1, D. Rock (Dublin) 3-0 .

Sub: J. Cooper (Dublin) for R. McHugh (h-t).

2015 All-Stars: B. Kealy (Kerry); P. McMahon (Dublin) 0-1, C. McCarron (Tyrone); K. O'Connell (Monaghan), C. O'Sullivan (Dublin), S. Enright (Kerry); B. Fenton (Dublin) 1-1, C. Cavanagh (Tyrone) 1-0; D. Walsh (Kerry) 1-0, N. Gallagher (Donegal) 1-1, M. Murphy (do) 3-2; C. McManus (Monaghan) 2-3, B. Brogan (Dublin) 1-3.

Referees: C. Lane (Cork, first half); M. Deegan (Laois, second half).

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