Seán Cavanagh 'understands' why players breached lockdown rules

“Now that I’m out of that bubble I do understand that there’s more to life"
Seán Cavanagh 'understands' why players breached lockdown rules

Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh: "Now that I’m out of that bubble I do understand that there’s more to life than the game and being on that constant hamster wheel."

Former Tyrone star Seán Cavanagh can understand why inter county players would breach lockdown for team training sessions, even though "obviously it's not right".

“I’ve spoken a lot in the past about the pressures of being in the intercounty bubble, and not seeing a lot of what’s going on outside that bubble.

“From a player’s perspective I totally understand how players would feel pressurised to do it (training during lockdown).

“Now that I’m out of that bubble I do understand that there’s more to life than the game and being on that constant hamster wheel. Sometimes it’s easy to say that players should take more of a stand - I know there was a bit of an issue in Armagh a month or two ago, and a few of the players took a stand and showed leadership. 

"But it’s difficult to do that, particularly when you’re dealing with new squads and there are pecking orders - you never want to be the one that goes against the management team.

“When I was in that bubble I didn’t see a lot of what was going on outside, so I can totally understand how players are accepting of it - but I do now see that obviously it’s not right, with what we’ve been going through, to jeopardise families.

“But those pressures are something that most people don’t understand, it’s something only people who have been on those teams, and trying to get those jerseys. Sometimes people just get so caught up in that tunnel vision, they’re the ones obviously affected, and it is difficult.” 

Cavanagh admits he only reached that level of perspective once his career finished: “If I’m honest, I only really got it once I left that stage. Up to my very last day in a Tyrone jersey, in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin a few years ago, I was still totally convinced that everything we had ever done in Tyrone was always right. That everything Mickey (Harte) and the management team had led us with was completely one hundred per cent honest and for our greater good.

“But once I stepped away I began to think, ‘was that right for me as a person?’ ‘Was that obsessional behaviour healthy for me, for my family - and sometimes was it even right for the team?

“That was me thinking as captain of the team, but if I weren’t the captain of the team, with that senior standing, I might have been able to spot those teams and been able to try to correct them.

“But at that time I was living that moment, captaining a team and completely convinced that we were going to win an All-Ireland, that we were going to beat the Dubs, that the Dubs were beatable.

“It’s when I stepped back that I realised, ‘nah, the Dubs weren’t beatable, we weren’t as close to them, and we did a lot of things that were inferior to what they were doing, etcetera.’ 

The three-time All-Ireland winner feels “Tyrone are in that bracket” of teams that can challenge Dublin.

“I would say you have Tyrone, Kerry and Dublin, though the Tyrone guys probably won’t thank me for saying that.

“I believe Kerry are capable, they had a bit of a slip up last year and I expected them to have a massive say in the championship. I believe Kerry will be on Dublin’s coattails and I hope Tyrone won’t be too far off them.” 

 Sean Cavanagh features on Laochra Gael this Thursday at 9.30pm on TG4.

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