Tyrone can learn valuable lessons from Dublin - Colm Cavanagh
Colm Cavanagh believes last weekend's historic Healy Park clash with Dublin can become an important stage in the evolution of a Tyrone team building a challenge to the supremacy of the All-Ireland champions.
The fine detail of a fiercely competitive Super Eights contest which resulted in a three-point win for the Dubs will be analysed and examined in detail as the Red Hands contrive a plan for a crucial clash with Donegal on Sunday week.
Tyrone must take a result from the sudden death Ulster derby to go through to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
"We'll have to go back and analyse that game in great detail, because there was a lot in it. There was a lot of decision-making from us that was poor at times, so we'll have to go and evaluate that," said Cavanagh, who turned 31 yesterday (Wed).
"That said, there was periods of play where we got on top and looked dangerous, but they're not the three-time All-Ireland champions for no reason, they're not the best team in the country for no reason. They were able to grind out that win and get the victory."
"We have to play with that intensity every week now. We got through the Qualifiers at a lesser pace, but to beat the Dublins, the Donegals, the Kerrys, the Galways, the top teams, we have to be at full pace every minute of the game.
"So we have to keep the pace that we played against Dublin and possibly up it more if we're going to get a result against Donegal."
All-Star midfielder Cavanagh feels the players can draw strength and confidence from the courage and character they showed in threatening to bring the Dubs' four-year unbeaten championship run to an end.
"To be honest, we showed great character to get back int the game, we did a lot of good things, but if we look at our decision making throughout the game, possibly at times shot selection, we made a lot of mistakes.
"Against the Dublins of this world, they're going to punish you, and they did. So while we're reasonably comfortable with parts of our performance, it wasn't enough to get us over the line, to get the victory."
Donegal have gone 21 games unbeaten in league and championship at MacCumhaill Park, a measure of the challenge facing the Red Hands as the Super 8s series comes down to a gripping finish.
"We have to go to Ballybofey and put in a performance up there, which is going to be a tremendous task. I', not sure the last time Donegal were beaten up there in the championship, so it's going to be a huge ask for this set of players."
Cavanagh is grateful for the second chance offered to Tyrone by the new All-Ireland quarter-final round robin system.
In previous years, defeat at this stage meant elimination, but Tyrone and Donegal can both put losses behind them and re-charge their title challenge.
"We're lucky we have another chance. I have been on the losing end of games and it's a long time back to the McKenna Cup, so we have to really relish the opportunity that we have to get the next game in and get a win that will hopefully put us in a good position.
"It's a plus point for the Super 8s, where we have that second opportunity."
Dublin have already sealed their place in the semi-finals, thanks to their 1-14 to 0-14 victory in Omagh, where Cavanagh once again witnessed at close quarters the quality and effectiveness of their footballing philosophy.
"They come at you in waves. They're obviously very, very fine-tuned and well-drilled in how their attack varies.
"It was very difficult. At times they were able to keep the ball for long periods of time, which obviously frustrates teams. You saw that last week against Donegal as well.
"They're well drilled and well organised. We had to bide or time at different stages of that game and hope that we could get the scores at the other end.
"They're the best team in the country at the minute, and we have another level or two to go before we're able to compete and be able to grind out a victory against a team like that".