Tyrone great Sean Cavanagh claims the county has produced a number of potentially great forwards whose development has been stymied by Mickey Harte’s defensive style.
Cavanagh’s three-time All-Ireland winning colleague Conor Gormley stated last month that Tyrone lack ‘marquee’ forwards, “that real stand-out forward playing for us in there”.
Cavanagh said the reality is that some huge scoring talents have come through over the years but that they’ve been ‘victims’ of Harte’s counter-attacking system, which places a premium on attacking from deep.
The comments may be interpreted as criticism of Harte, whom Cavanagh played for until last season, and the Moy man described his former manager’s style as “quite autocratic at times”.
Asked about Tyrone’s apparent lack of ‘marquee’ forwards ahead of Sunday’s Ulster SFC showdown with Monaghan, Cavanagh said: “The way Tyrone has played this past three or four years, we haven’t really played with any structure in the forward unit, that’s probably the best way of putting it.
“That’s probably one of the reasons why some of our forwards that came through the system this past four, five, or six years haven’t really kicked on. 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.
“And some of those guys have obviously fallen away and aren’t on the panel anymore.
“That’s probably not all their own fault, if I’m honest, it’s just the way the system, or the type of football, has gone.
“Some of those type of players have suffered. 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.”
Cavanagh agreed that these players have been victims of Harte’s system.
“That’s exactly what they were,” continued the former Footballer of the Year. “It’s sad that, because some of them have as much talent or possibly more talent that some of the older (guys), the guys that were on some of the older teams that myself and Conor played on. But they just haven’t been given that opportunity to play, which is just tough.”
Cavanagh said he was 100% convinced Tyrone would win the All-Ireland last year before their semi-final defeat to Dublin.
He described Harte as “a very convincing manager” but admitted he wonders at times if they should have been more attack-minded over the years.
“You do have those ‘what ifs?’, that if we did go with three forwards instead of one, or gone with four, because there’s serious quality in that Tyrone team,” he said. “They’re all there and you should see some of the stuff they do at training but unfortunately they don’t have the confidence or don’t have the....they are maybe not stuck with the same as when the game would be 15 v 15. When things aren’t going well, there’s a temptation for Mickey to go for a different style of player, a style of player that works hard and labours around the midfield and that can run the ball quick through the hands.”
Sean Cavanagh was speaking at the launch of Electric Ireland’s ‘This is Major’ campaign as part of its ongoing sponsorship of the GAA minor championships.
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