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Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh still has so much to give, says Matthew Donnelly

By Declan Bogue

With the first day of the winter drawing in and some hard decisions to be made, Tyrone's Matthew Donnelly has urged his captain Sean Cavanagh to come back for another tilt at an All-Ireland in 2017.

The week after their defeat to Mayo in the quarter-final, Mickey Harte gathered his players in to sign off on the 2016 season, which produced an Ulster title for the first time in six years.

Cavanagh was present for the debriefing and Donnelly expects to see him back along with fellow veterans Joe and Justin McMahon.

"They said they are going to take their time over it," explained Donnelly.

"But I would say they will be present too when the 2017 squad is meeting. I don't see any reason why they wouldn't be."

For all three the season ended on a flat note personally with defeat to Mayo. Cavanagh was dismissed after two yellow cards - the first questionable as he became embroiled in a flare-up as he made his way onto the field after half-time.

Joe McMahon has played little football over the last two seasons as he battles with various injuries, while Justin was substituted in the first half as a tactical switch.

But 2015 All-Star Donnelly believes the potential within the current squad is a temptation.

"A lot is made of age and miles on the clock. But boys like Sean and Joe and Justin don't really operate in terms of years, they just think of winning," he said.

"That's what will make their decision; if they think there is something there to be done, those boys can contribute. I would say they are going to stay on and they are well fit for it."

Cavanagh is the last remaining link to the 2003 All-Ireland winning team. Having made his debut in 2002, his International Rules team mate Donnelly believes there would be no physical or form-based argument against him playing a 16th consecutive season at inter-county level.

He reasoned: "All you have to do is look at his Ulster final performance. That was taxing weather, it was a taxing game with the hits, but he was the man going strong in the midst of it all.

"He was still the man coming up strong in the last few minutes, breaking through tackles and taking hits, still having the energy and strength to kick points over the bar.

"That's testament to how fit that man is, so I don't think it is an issue."

So far, Donnelly has not watched the defeat back, and maintains he is not likely to.

"It's one thing I never do, watch games back. I can't recall the last one I watched back," he admitted.

"I am sure Mickey (Harte) has watched it back numerous times and identified areas where we went wrong.

"It is probably something we will revisit in the future."

Donnelly's club Trillick begin their defence of the Tyrone Championship on Sunday when they face Eglish in Augher (throw-in 3pm).

Manager Nigel Seaney is back on board and Donnelly revealed: "We don't change our approach to this game. It is very player-led and they facilitate players in that way. It was important to have stability and the same approach this year."

He also acknowledged that last year's triumph came against the head, conceding: "Nobody had ever done what we did last year, coming from an Intermediate final and then winning the Senior Championship. It had never been done before.

"But our dressing room has a lot of big characters and there would have been a lot of confidence we would make the breakthrough at one stage or another.

"It might have came sooner than a lot of people expected, but the opportunity presented itself and when you have that quality and the characters that we have, then we were going to take it."

Belfast Telegraph


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