GAA Football

Controversial comments were no publicity stunt insists former Tyrone star Sean Cavanagh

Sean Cavanagh: “I couldn’t really understand why there was such a frenzy”
Neil Loughran

SEAN Cavanagh says his comments about the leadership of Mickey Harte and Tyrone’s style of play were not a publicity stunt – and admits he was “disappointed” by some of the criticism that came his way from ex-team-mates.

The former Red Hand captain described Harte as “autocratic”, and said the inter-county careers of some talented forwards had suffered as a result of the manager’s defensive strategy during recent years.

Those comments were made at a mid-May press call in Dublin, just before Tyrone’s Ulster Championship opener against Monaghan and only days after Cavanagh revealed he was working on his autobiography.

But, on the day The Obsession hits shop shelves, the three-time All-Ireland winner has denied suggestions he was trying to garner publicity for himself – and stands by what he said, even in light of Tyrone going on to reach the All-Ireland final.

“No, certainly not. That’s probably me being my own worst enemy in terms of being too honest in interviews. Maybe there isn’t all that many filters with me,” said the Moy man.

“Obviously I wasn’t delighted with some of the coverage that came on the back of that and I find it quite ironic at times that some of the guys who were coming out were making headlines out of perceiving me as trying to make headlines.

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“I didn’t reply because I didn’t want to be in a media storm; obviously Colm, who I’m closer to than anybody, he was stuck in the middle of it.

“But yeah, did it disappoint me that some people came out who I considered friends and maybe ridiculed some of the comments I made? Yeah it did.

“Do I still think the comments were fair? I do. I had given a 30 minute interview to a few journalists down in Dublin, and journalists are very good sometimes at taking a certain line from the start of an interview and a certain line from the end of an interview and connecting them and making a headline out of it.

“The two that kept coming out were that Mickey was an autocratic manager, and I would still say his leadership style is that way. I would say a lot of leaders around the world would consider themselves autocratic, and most of the successful ones in that respect. I didn’t see that as a huge deal.

“The other one was saying the style of play wasn’t conducive to some of the inside forwards we have had over the last seven or eight years – I would still stand over that.

“I couldn’t really understand why there was such a frenzy.”

Yet those comments caused quite a furore, with several former team-mates having their say, including ex-Tyrone captain Gavin Devlin.

The Ardboe man - who is Mickey Harte’s assistant – had his say in the days after, and appeared to question Cavanagh’s role as captain; a position he held until his retirement last year.

“We’ve been very, very close in recent years and we didn’t get over the line to win an All-Ireland,” said Devlin. “Maybe that’s what was missing, that calibre of captaincy.”

“Obviously it’s a disappointing line,” said Cavanagh, “but I would be fairly confident if you asked every player that played with me during the time of my captaincy, I would imagine you’d get a pretty positive response.

“I felt it may have been a bit of a cheap shot but c’est la vie. If Gavin’s happy with that, I’m certainly not the kind of person who would want to get into a war of words.”

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