GAA Football

Sean Cavanagh ready to winter well when he hangs up his boots

Pictured are Tyrone player Sean Cavanagh and Rosemary Steen, Director of External Affairs, EirGrid. EirGrid is the state-owned company that manages and develops Ireland's electricity grid. For more information see

WHENEVER the end does come for Sean Cavanagh some time between June and September, he will allow himself to ‘winter well’ rather than chasing around forest parks after his brother Adrian.

The eldest of the three Moy siblings, Adrian played a bit of football as a youngster but his calling in sport has been to pound the roads in pursuit of a different athletic excellence.

While Sean and Colm have frequented pitches the length and breadth of Ireland, the first-born was a basketballer, and is a runner and a swimmer now.

Six and seven miles a day in winter, through forest parks around home the two footballing siblings would build the running into the legs by trying to keep pace.

“He teaches us a lesson every winter. Whilst we can throw him out of the road, he could run the legs off us. We usually don’t catch him,” says Sean, speaking off the back of an EirGrid event ahead of next weekend’s All-Ireland under-21 final.

“We’d go around the local forest park, just to keep yourself ticking over. You could be in the gym seven nights a week in winter but we’d try and get a bit of basketball going or throw in an old forest run. If I’m retired from inter-county this winter, it could be a wintering well job.”

The winter last was his last winter of that. He is certain now that the time has come.

Cavanagh fluttered his eyes at retirement throughout last year, set on it until Mayo jabbed the index finger right into them.

There can be no doubt this time. He’s set up his own accountancy firm, Sean Cavanagh & Co, as something to submerge himself in when he enters the afterlife of inter-county football.

At 34, the body feels fine he says. When Tyrone train, they are rated on three key indicators and he still regularly sits in the top group in each of them. So why retire?

“You sort of kick it back and forward in your head. I’d almost decided last year would be my last year. There were bits of injuries creeping in.

“I never wanted to be the person that was neglecting another Tyrone person of a starting spot because of my name or what I’d done in the past.

“I’m quite sensitive about that and so when I decided to come back this year, I only did so on the basis that I’d be at all the training and all the weights, as much and more as anyone in the squad would be willing to do, instead of trying to manage yourself and maybe losing that sharpness you need to perform.

“This year my body has felt quite strong and quite good. I am 34 now, and slightly subconsciously I’ve set up this new business knowing that I’ll have an awful lot more energy to channel when this inter-county season comes to an end and I have that bit more time on my hands.

“That’s one of the driving reasons why I set up the business, to almost replace the buzz that I get out of inter-county football.

“I’ve played it for as long as I’ve been an adult. I’m 34 and played 16 seasons, so it’s all I really know.

“It scares the living daylights out of me not being an inter-county footballer next year, but at the same time you have to know when it’s right and when you’re at the point where you’re holding other players back.”

When he takes the call, he’s crossed out of Dublin and into Kildare, arriving at Carton House, where Tyrone footballers will spend the weekend building towards their Ulster Championship opener with Derry five weeks tomorrow.

It was a source of debate, and some angst, in the county as it threatened initially to disrupt club fixtures before a compromise was found.

They’ll travel back up the road early on Sunday and be available for their clubs, as expected, later in the day. It does impinge on what they’ll be able to do on their break in Kildare but for Cavanagh, the balance is right.

“Every player down here this weekend wants to be playing football, we’d rather be doing that than aerobic sessions.

“Getting up the road to play the games is good, but we just have to be careful with the bodies. We’re only five weeks out from the start of the Championship and you’d cringe at the thought of someone picking up a serious injury at this time of the year.

“You only have to look at Darren Hughes with Scotstown. Injuries will always happen but you try and not over-train yourself.

“We’ll train tonight and tomorrow, the games are Sunday evening and there’s a bit of travel involved. Boys are staying in a hotel, some guys don’t always get the proper rest.

“There are a number of factors to consider but the priorities in Tyrone are not too far wrong. The players want to play for the clubs but there has to be the wee bit of recognition that we have work to do with the county as well.

“As long as there’s a bit of common sense on both sides, we’re relatively in a good place."

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