GAA Football

I toyed with walking away, but not after suffering Dub defeat insists Colm Cavanagh

Colm Cavanagh rises high with Dublin's James McCarthy during yesterday's All-Ireland final
Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

COLM Cavanagh admits he would have been tempted to call time had Tyrone toppled the Dubs yesterday, but the Red Hand midfielder is not prepared to finish on a sour note and intends to be back in county colours next year.

The Moy man is the one survivor from Tyrone’s last All-Ireland success 10 years ago, and there had been some talk he could follow his brother Sean into inter-county retirement.

Cavanagh revealed it was something he had considered but, after yesterday’s six point defeat to the all-conquering Dubs brought an end to a year when the Red Hands built impressively through the back door, he is already eyeing up another crack.

“Yeah, look I toyed with this,” said the Allstar midfielder.

“I laughed and joked with the boys that if we were to win something this year I could see my days out – I did consider it this year if we had won. I’m 31 years of age now, I’m not getting any younger, a lot of these guys are making it harder and harder to come back and compete with.

“However, I don’t know whether I could go out like that. There’s serious potential in this team, we’ve developed a great bond over the last number of months.

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“Moy won an All-Ireland this year and I came in late to the panel, and it took me a wee while to adjust and get back into the scene. But to see how the group dynamic evolved over the couple of months through the Qualifier run was unbelievable and I think we have a really strong group there who enjoy each other’s company and will go to the well for each other. That’s important, and that can hopefully go well for us next year.”

Considering how handily Tyrone were dismissed in their 2017 semi-final with Jim Gavin’s men, Mickey Harte and his players can take solace from the fact that the gap has closed significantly.

Indeed, in the early stages of the game they raced into a four-point lead at a startled Croke Park before the Dubs sucker-punched them with two goals before the break.

Cavanagh admits the Red Hands had surprised themselves by coming out of the blocks so quickly, and feels they lost their composure and became “reckless”.

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“To be honest, I think the fast start was unbelievable and we shocked ourselves in a way going 5-1 up,” he added.

“We seemed to go into a panic mode, which is crazy to think because we felt we could manage the game if we went 5-1 up. But we were reckless, we kicked shots away and we made bad decisions.

“Had that not been the case, it could have been a very different end to the first half. It turned out that Dublin got a point back, got the goal and it really took the stuffing out of us and it was very hard to recover after they did that.

“Yeah, that first 20 minutes we’ll probably look back on the hardest and say ‘why were wee not a wee bit better and put Dublin under pressure?’ But that’s sport and it’s hard to get that message out whenever the crowd is rocking to keep the ball and be smart.”

Cavanagh was among the freshest faces on the panel when Tyrone stormed the Kingdom in 2008, in a group that included greats like Brian Dooher, Stephen O’Neill, Ryan McMenamin and his brother Sean among a host of others.

The class of 2018 doesn’t have that reservoir of experience to call upon yet, and at times it told as Dublin took a stranglehold on the game: “It’s a fair point. It’s a big occasion, everyone wants to do their best and impress.

“Yeah, potentially a wee bit at crucial times and the game management part of it wasn’t what it should have been. And I know that – I’m not trying to have a go at anyone. We just know that we didn’t manage the game well at a crucial time.

“To be honest we were totally in control and Dublin were under pressure. But look, the next part after that 20 minutes, you have to give credit where credit is due. They put us to the sword and they got the scores and their game management was brilliant.

“Their kick-outs were brilliant and we found it very difficult to stifle that. Once we made a mistake up front or gave the ball away, even for myself trying to get back trying to cover that hole, they had the ball right beside me by the time I got back and turned around.

“They are shocking fast, their speed of transition is very good and they’ve obviously worked on it a lot. We found it hard to get set up and get things organised because you don’t have the time that other teams give you.”

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