A 'great captain' would have aired grievances while still playing not from RTÉ studio - Devlin on Cavanagh's criticism of Mickey Harte

Tyrone assistant manager Gavin Devlin has fired back at Sean Cavanagh's recent criticism of Mickey Harte, claiming a "great captain" would have aired their grievances while still playing and not from the comfort of the RTÉ studio.

In the days before Tyrone's Ulster SFC quarter-final defeat to Monaghan, Cavanagh, present at an Electric Ireland event, described Harte's style as "autocratic".

The three-time All-Ireland medal-winner, who retired at the end of last year, said Tyrone forwards have suffered under Harte's counter-attacking system, which places a premium on attacking from deep.

Sean Cavanagh.

“The way Tyrone has played this past three or four years, we haven’t played with any structure in the forward unit," Cavanagh remarked.

“Ronan O’Neill, Darren McCurry, Kyle Coney, who came through way back in 2009, 2010, Niall McKenna, there’s been a flood of guys who probably have suffered because we haven’t played with six attackers.

"Some of those guys I would have called marquee, and thought they would be marquee, but because they never had that room to breathe, and because some of them couldn’t cope with having to spend more time on the bench, because we were going towards a certain type of player, they struggled.”

Devlin, who played alongside Cavanagh, believes it reflects poorly on the Moy man that he chose not to make his feelings known while captain of the Tyrone team, waiting instead until he had moved into the punditry game.

He also insinuated that Tyrone's shortcomings in recent years were linked to not having a captain of such stature as Peter Canavan or Brian Dooher.

Mickey Harte.

“I know Sean was the captain of our team for a number of years. I didn’t see myself as a great player but I played in a number of successful teams.

"Any team that I was ever involved in always had great captains and anyone of those captains - whether it be Brian Dooher, Peter Canavan or Cormac McAnallen - they would have said something if they felt something wasn’t right," Devlin told The Irish News.

“If I had been captain, I have no doubt that I could have met Mickey and said: ‘Mickey, I think this is what we should do,’ or ‘What about trying this?’

I wouldn’t sit and keep my mouth shut. I’ve had a number of conversations with Sean and he never mentioned anything about styles of play or what we should and shouldn’t do. If he thought something wasn’t right, as captain, why didn’t he come and have a conversation with us rather than saying it in an RTÉ studio?

“That’s my opinion on it. The captains we’ve had in the past, I’ve no doubt would have come to Mickey and had their say.

“We’ve been very, very close in recent years and we didn’t get over the line to win an All-Ireland.

"Maybe that’s what was missing, that calibre of captaincy.”

Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin on the sideline for Tyrone.

Another Tyrone All-Ireland winner, Stephen O'Neill, was brought on board at the outset of the 2018 campaign to work with the Red Hand forwards. Devlin commended O'Neill for giving back and also insisted that Tyrone are "comfortable" with their approach.

“For the likes of Stevie O’Neill, they’ve all come back and put their shoulder to the wheel. There are no big, brown envelopes in Tyrone.

"We’re more than comfortable the way the game is being played. Of course, you evolve and you add value to what you do. You’re never the finished article. I know the set of players we have and what they have to offer.”

Tyrone are away to Meath in the opening round of the qualifiers on June 9.

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