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Cavanagh admits regrets as ‘big calls’ go against Tyrone

Not all defeats taste the same.

Two years ago, Sean Cavanagh swallowed the pain of a seven-point loss to Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final, but that medicine was more digestible for the knowledge that their conquerors had been fully deserving of the win.

Cavanagh didn’t have that crutch to lean on yesterday.

For half an hour, Tyrone had Mayo right where they wanted them and the Moy midfielder spoke of how he could see the "fear in their eyes" as Tyrone made James Horan’s side look mortal after a summer of superhuman performances.

"No disrespect, coming into this game we knew they hadn’t been tested," said the 29-year old. "We knew we could shock them and that’s what we did in the first half but we just couldn’t see it through. From our point of view it is massively disappointing because I think we knew and I know we have the quality in the squad.

"It was different a couple of years ago. We played Dublin here and we came out and were deflated because you knew you were beaten by a side that was much superior to our side that night.

"You have to hold your hands up to that sometimes but sitting there today you have regrets because you know if a couple of big calls or breaks went our way, we could have come out of here winning this game."

Mickey Harte was asked about those calls but the Tyrone manager refused to go big on the penalty awarded to Mayo after Dermot Carlin challenged Colm Boyle or the lack of a similar award when Lee Keegan blocked Ryan McKenna’s shot with a foot.

The only decision with which Harte voiced his displeasure was Maurice Deegan’s failure to act on Tom Cunniffe’s challenge on Peter Harte which saw the Errigal Ciaran man replaced with what proved to be a pelvic bone injury.

"What would annoy me more than anything, he didn’t even get a free for something that made him have to leave the field on crutches. So there’s another anomaly, if you like, that we’re looking at this game through different lenses."

Like Cavanagh, Mickey Harte was quick to zero in on the impact the loss of their influential centre-back and Stephen O’Neill to injuries so early in the contest had and it remains to be seen if we ever see the latter frequent HQ again.

O’Neill is 32 now and similar doubts are being expressed over the longevity of 33-year-old defender Conor Gormley and goalkeeper Pascal McConnell.

"Well, you know now is not the time to be speaking about imminent retirements or putting that before anybody," said Harte who admitted that the season had surpassed his expectations for a team in transition.

"Players are sensible, honest, hard-working people, and they know when the decision is to make. But everyone needs time to reflect, then can make a better decision when they do.

"There won’t be any knee-jerk reactions today, anyway."