Sean Cavanagh: Tyrone will win another All-Ireland title
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.
The Moy clubman hasn't ruled out staying on for another year with the Red Hands - but regardless of his decision he believes the big prize is just around the corner.
“Whenever I was asked this question five or six months ago, I told people there would be no fairytale ending," said Cavanagh.
“It normally doesn’t happen, but at the same time you do always dream, and you have to dream.
“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 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.”
Back in Division One following a brief visit to the second tier of the National Football League, the Red Hands will regularly face the country’s top teams next spring.
Cavanagh sees the 2017 campaign as an opportunity for Tyrone’s exciting young team to gain vital experience and craft another major championship challenge.
“It has been a right journey. We all sorta saw the losing to Donegal in Ballybofey last year as real turning point in this team, and we had a raft of guys that left the squad, and a raft of guys that came in.
“And there’s been a few more that’s been added to it this year. We did see ourselves coming together since then, and I think we have been improving since then.
“Okay, last Saturday was a blip, but at the same time I do think that the age profile is there for another year of development, and a lot of those guys will make Tyrone a much stronger outfit.
“I think, for 2017, competing in Division One will be another good test for the team, and I expect Tyrone to be competing at the top end of Division One next year.”
The loss to Mayo have brought the season to an abrupt and disturbing end, but Sean Cavanagh’s 15th year as a Tyrone player gave him some of his proudest moments, the highlight being his captaincy of an Ulster Championship winning team.
“I grew up watching the Ciaran Corrs, the Peter Canavan, and obviously being able to play with Peter, and Brian (Dooher), lifting that cup.
“For a long time in my career, I didn’t feel that I was going to actually even be able to captain the county, and captain the county to this year stand on the steps of Croke Park and lift the Division Two league, and stand on the steps of Clones and lift the Anglo-Celt.
“They were immensely proud moments for both me and my family.
“I am hurting right now, but at the same time, I do see the bigger picture, and I have to sit back and realise that I have had some fantastic memories, from the Donegal game in the Ulster final, standing there with my two kids and my wife, and being able to remember some of the proud gaels that have done just that.
“It was just a real proud moment for me to be standing there as captain of a fantastic team.
“But I and the team had greater ambitions, but you have to be thankful for what we have, and I am certainly thankful for that.”