He’s publicly flirted with retirement before but Sean Cavanagh insists this definitely will be his last season as a Tyrone footballer.
The three-time All-Ireland winner made a similar statement early last year before backtracking and staying on for 2017 though he has acknowledged his end game is close now.
Cavanagh, who appeared as a substitute in last weekend’s Allianz league draw with Dublin, admitted he couldn’t quit on the low of being sent off in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo.
But the 2008 Footballer of the Year, who turns 34 tomorrow, has also made his peace with the likelihood he’s got just one more shot at Championship glory.
“I’m pretty sure of that, 99% confident of that,” said Cavanagh, who revealed that setting a date has allowed him to enjoy his role even more.
“In my eyes this is it and genuinely I do absolutely love every minute I’m training. It’s absolutely Baltic in Garvaghy at training. But I do love going up. I love spending time with the guys.
“I know you’ll never be able to replace that camaraderie you have with the team when you go. We’re lucky in Tyrone we don’t have any club rifts, we have everybody who turns up to train for Tyrone, and to play for Tyrone, who is 100% committed to try and do their best for Tyrone.
“That environment is a great one to be in. I’m just living it, training session by training session, day by day and I’m really enjoying it at the moment because I know this will be the end of it.
“You want to be fair to the rest of the guys too. I’d never like to think that I’d be living on a reputation or something like that. I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career to win what I have won but at the same time I don’t want to be the person training once a week or every other session to try and be part of something where the rest of the guys are putting in the hard work.
“That was the basis on which I came back this year, that if I wasn’t fit to do the things everyone else was doing, including the gym stuff, and four or five nights a week of training, I wouldn’t do it. I know that will be more difficult next year and the year after so I have it in my head that this is it.”
Cavanagh feels Mickey Harte still has a number of years to run as manager despite being knocked back on a couple of occasions in recent years with contract extension requests.
“I don’t know the full details of how it all happened or whatever happens in these county board meetings, it may have been the case of the wrong time or the wrong structure or something being brought up in the wrong way but I think we as players, we know he’s the man for the job,” said Cavanagh.
“We don’t see him as not being there next year. It’s an automatic of Mickey Harte being the Tyrone manager and probably will be for a few years to come.”
Winning an All-Ireland title with an entirely new team would place Harte up there among the great managers of all time. Cavanagh is optimistic and admitted last year’s failure to advance beyond Mayo really stung. “We were disappointed last year not to have got through that quarter-final with Mayo and, no disrespect to Tipperary, we would have hoped then to get through to the final and to have Dublin in the final,” he said. “That annoyed us.”
ritics of Tyrone have claimed they don’t score enough against the big teams to make that sort of breakthrough and, ultimately, lack cutting edge forward talent.
“If you look at some of the scores we threw up last year, I wouldn’t say that,” countered Cavanagh. “I know we put up a ridiculous score against Cavan and Derry in the Championship. Donegal, most teams are going to struggle to put up big scores against that Donegal team on a hot summer’s day.
“Look, our thing we probably need to work on is our conversion rate. I think last Saturday night we had 28 shots and scored 1-7 off that. It isn’t good enough. It probably is that final piece of the jigsaw.”
Dublin and Tyrone have only ever met in the league since Jim Gavin took over as Dubs boss. The sides have drawn their last two games, in 2017 and 2015, and across their five meetings there’s just a single point between them, in Dublin’s favour.
“We probably cruised to a certain extent through Division 2 last year without having to play our best football,” said Cavanagh.
“As a team we were really, really looking forward to Saturday night’s game to test ourselves against the best. I’s a sort of a case that, okay, we could have done more but they’ll probably feel they could have done more. We hope that we’ll get a chance to meet them later in the season.”
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