Gavin Devlin fires back at Sean Cavanagh's Tyrone criticisms
GAVIN ‘Horse’ Devlin has hit back at Sean Cavanagh’s criticisms of Mickey Harte’s style of management and selection policy and said the Moy man had ample opportunities to voice his concerns while captaining Tyrone.
Cavanagh, who retired from Tyrone at the end of last season, claims that Harte was “autocratic” and some players’s county careers suffered as a result of the manager’s perceived defensive strategy.
Cavanagh said: “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…
“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."
Devlin expressed his surprise at his former team-mate’s analysis of Tyrone.
“We talk about what we do,” said Devlin, who is assistant manager to Harte.
“I know Sean was the captain of our team for a number of years. I didn’t see myself as a great player but I played in a number of successful teams. Any team that I was ever involved in always had great captains and anyone of those captains - whether it be Brian Dooher, Peter Canavan or Cormac McAnallen - they would have said something if they felt something wasn’t right.
“They would come to Mickey and say: ‘I think we can add value to what we’re doing.’”
The 2003 All-Ireland winner said he never had any problem discussing team matters with Harte during his playing days with Tyrone.
“If I had been captain, I have no doubt that I could have met Mickey and said: ‘Mickey, I think this is what we should do,’ or ‘What about trying this?’
“I wouldn’t sit and keep my mouth shut. I’ve had a number of conversations with Sean and he never mentioned anything about styles of play or what we should and shouldn’t do. If he thought something wasn’t right, as captain, why didn’t he come and have a conversation with us rather than saying it in an RTE studio?
“That’s my opinion on it… The captains we’ve had in the past, I’ve no doubt would have come to Mickey and had their say.
“We’ve been very, very close in recent years and we didn’t get over the line to win an All-Ireland. Maybe that’s what was missing, that calibre of captaincy.”
Tyrone lost to Monaghan in their Ulster Championship opener on May 20 and face a tricky assignment against Meath in the All-Ireland Qualifiers, especially without injured duo Lee Brennan and Mark Bradley, while Peter Harte is suspended.
Devlin has been working alongside Harte for the last six years with Peter Donnelly another key element of Tyrone’s backroom staff.
Former footballer of the year Stevie O’Neill was also recruited at the start of the season to work primarily with the Tyrone forwards.
Devlin added: “For the likes of Stevie O’Neill and those boys they’ve all come back and put their shoulder to the wheel. There are no big, brown envelopes in Tyrone.
“Stevie is in it for the love of the game and we’re delighted to have him. We’re more than comfortable the way the game is being played. Of course, you evolve and you add value to what you do – you’re never the finished article.
“But I’m very comfortable with the way the game is being played and I know the set of players that we have and what they have to offer.”
Cavanagh’s no-holds-barred assessment of Tyrone also drew derision from his club-mate and former county star Philip Jordan.
“Myself and Sean are neighbours,” wrote Jordan in his RTE GAA column.
“We played together for years and I’d have no problem telling him that I disagree 100 per cent with his comments.
“Sean is obviously thinking about his media career and he’s learning from Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane about making the headlines.”