The 2008 Footballer of the Year feared he would miss Saturday’s first test after Croke Park failed in attempts to convince his county board to re-fix the relegation battle between Cavanagh’s Moy and Eglish, which was scheduled to take place earlier in the day. The game was eventually called off on Saturday because of a waterlogged pitch in Moy and will take place in Eglish tomorrow evening.
Both GAA director general Páraic Duffy and director of games administration and player welfare Feargal McGill attempted to persuade Tyrone and Eglish to change the 3.45pm throw-in either to an earlier time or a later date.
Claiming Tyrone and Eglish “disrespected the competition”, Cavanagh was disheartened by their steadfast refusal to accommodate him to represent Ireland in a competition in which the cup on offer is named after the latter’s most famous clubman, McAnallen.
“I’ve been fighting all week and Croke Park have been trying to fight all week to try and get the game moved and I think phone calls were put in and I was trying to get it across to the Tyrone County Board that this competition means a lot to me personally, just for the fact that it is Cormac’s cup. I’ve been quite passionate about that down through the years and I thought even up to Friday night I wasn’t sure whether I was going to get to play.
“I was maybe going to have to go down the road and play a club game (on Saturday). It means an awful lot to me to be able to go out there and hopefully we can keep Cormac’s cup here because he’s still fresh in my memory.”
Cavanagh has his suspicions why the county board and Eglish were so steadfast in their refusals but dispirited by their lack of flexibility.
“(Dublin’s) Paul Flynn was in the same boat and he managed to get his game moved and Tyrone wouldn’t move it for myself but then Eglish were being quite obstructive.
“Maybe they were taking their chance. You’d think if anyone would understand then Eglish would understand. Cormac was a proud Eglish man, a proud Tyrone man and proud Irishman and I’d like to think if the roles were reversed that he would be looking to play in this competition if it was in my name. He was a great friend of mine.”
Although clearly frustrated, Cavanagh joked his old friend McAnallen may have intervened in getting the game called off.
“You give 14 years’ service to Tyrone and you’re being told that you can’t go and represent your country and try and win Cormac McAnallen’s cup and keep it here.
“(It) took a bit of the taste off it coming into the game. Maybe Cormac was looking down on me and he threw a bit of water over the Moy pitch!”