Sean Cavanagh has felt the roar of a passionate crowd ringing in his ears as he chased All-Ireland glory with Tyrone for almost a decade and a half, writes Francis Mooney
He expected a silence to descend on his sporting life once he retired from inter-county football at the conclusion of the 2017 championship.
But just a few months after the end of a glorious Red Hand career, yet another All-Ireland challenge has consumed him.
The volume may not be quite so deafening, but the rousing chorus of the Moy faithful is no less fanatical.
They’ll flock to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise on Sunday to roar on the Tir na nÓgs in the All-Ireland Club IFC semi-final against An Ghaeltacht of Kerry, and at the end of it all, Cavanagh may just find himself on his way back to Croke Park for yet another All-Ireland final.
“I’ve been lucky to know what it feels like to have Tyrone support behind me wearing a red and white jersey, and now to be wearing my beloved blue and white jersey, and to see the whole buzz around the Moy community, the families that have been united,” he said.
“I had never won anything in 18 or 19 years playing senior football for the Moy. So to now go on and win Ulster and be looking forward to competing in the All-Ireland series is something really special.”
A devastating defeat by Dublin brought the curtain down on a stellar inter-county career back in August. Substituted 15 minutes from the end, Cavanagh was inconsolable. But the club championship offered an escape, a distraction and the thrill of a precious journey with his closest friends and nearest neighbours.
“It’s an amazing journey. Whenever I walked off that pitch after 55 minutes in Croke Park at the end of August, I never imagined that the passover would be to success on the club field.”
Moy hadn’t won a championship title since before he was born. His father Teddy played full-back on the team that won the Tyrone Intermediate crown 35 years ago.
There was no provincial series back in the 80s, but when the Tir na nÓgs pocketed the county title last September, they then conquered Ulster as well.
The community has responded, some even crossing the River Blackwater from neighbouring Armagh to register their solidarity and backing for local heroes.
“People who you never even thought were into Gaelic football have come together, and it’s beautiful,” said Cavanagh.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved