As Sean Cavanagh steps away from the public glare to take time out for quiet contemplation on one of the biggest decisions of his career, Tyrone fans are hoping they will see their heroic captain back in the county colours next year.
His decision to put retirement plans on hold means the Moy man’s pledge that 2016 would be his final season is up for review.
The five-time All-Star has revealed that no final call has been made on his future, and a 16th season is a very real possibility.
Cavanagh’s dream of going out on a high was shattered by last weekend’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo, and turned into a nightmare by his own dismissal late in the Croke Park tie.
“At this stage, there’s that many different factors that come into it, that I’m definitely not in the mind-frame to make any rash decisions at this stage. I don’t think it needs to be made right now,” he said.
“I’m long enough about to know that you shouldn’t do that, so look, it will be a case of playing a bit of club football for the next few weeks and seeing how the body holds up, and seeing how the winter goes, to a certain extent.
“My wife has been convinced that this was definitely my last year playing football.
“I had promised myself and I had promised everyone that 2016 would be my last year, but by the same token, I was fully expecting to be in an All-Ireland semi-final and possibly an All-Ireland final.
“So whenever these things don’t work out as you’ve planned, you do have to re-think these things, so that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.” High on the list of compelling arguments tugging at Cavanagh’s heartstrings is the quality of the current team and an instinctive desire to continue to be a part of it.
He has watched exciting young players join the set-up, nurtured them as they learned their trade and developed into accomplished county footballers.
“Probably the main reason behind that is that we have a really outstanding team at the moment.
“I have said to the lads that it’s one of the strongest, if not the strongest squad that I have been part of.
“Look, I have no doubt that there’s still a serious amount of success for this Tyrone team to be had, but it just is quite demoralising that we’re not going to get the chance to participate in the semi-final or final, because that’s where I believe this team belongs.” With or without Sean Cavanagh, the treble All-Ireland winner is convinced the Sam Maguire Cup will be returning to Tyrone in the near future, to add to the success of 2003, ’05 and ’08.
“Whenever I was asked this question five or six months ago, I told people there would be no fairytale ending.
“I genuinely don’t know what will happen next year, but I do know for a fact that whether it be next year, or be the year after, or the year after that, I don genuinely believe that there’s an All-Ireland in this Tyrone senior team.” This week, the warm glow of optimism for the future sits uncomfortably alongside pangs of despair and devastation at events which unfolded at Croke Park last Saturday.
In the Ulster final against Donegal, Cavanagh was the man who inspired his colleagues and led the team home with an inspirational late surge.
Against Mayo, he was robbed of the opportunity to repeat those heroics by a controversial double yellow card dismissal.
“I’m just so gutted, and I apologised to all the guys afterwards, that I couldn’t be there in that last ten minutes on Saturday to be able to see the guys through, because there’s some fantastic footballers there that do belong at the top, winning All-Stars and winning various trophies, because they are an amazing group of footballers.
“But maybe this year is a year too early, and maybe Saturday is another thorny reminder that you can get caught on these types of days.
“It could be a learning point for the future, and I think that’s all we can take out of it at this stage.”
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