GAA Football

I won't follow in footsteps of fellow pundit Joe Brolly insists Sean Cavanagh

Sean Cavanagh came in for plenty of criticism in the aftermath of the cynical 'rugby tackle' that denied Monaghan's Conor McManus a goalscoring opportunity in the 2013 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

HE may have laughed and joked with Joe Brolly in The Sunday Game studio during Tyrone’s All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, but Sean Cavanagh says he doesn’t intend to follow the Derry man’s punditry style.

Brolly was critical of Cavanagh at times during his playing days, both in print and in the RTE studio, most famously after the ex-Tyrone star hauled down Conor McManus to deny the Monaghan forward a shot on goal in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final.

Cavanagh has now joined Brolly as a Sunday Game pundit, and insists he doesn’t hold a grudge about past comments. However, in terms of his own punditry style, the Moy man sees himself staying away from personal attacks.

“I only met [Brolly] him last Sunday for the first time in about 10 years. Things like that, even if you might say you don’t listen or you don’t read them, they do seep into your psyche at times.

“It’s something I hope I don’t have to do. I don’t think amateur players deserve personal criticism. I don’t mind speaking about a style or a decision someone made, but I certainly wouldn’t like to try and go after the character of a certain individual.

“Everyone has to go to work on a Monday morning, everyone has to go home to their families. At times it did seep into me and at times I probably used it to my advantage to try and prove a few people wrong.

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“Equally, there was some very clever pundits I would’ve enjoyed listening to… he’s a bit of a hero of mine anyway, but Anthony Tohill used to be on The Sunday Game and I’d always enjoy the very measured approach he had to everything.

“He didn’t try and hit the extremes, but I thought he spoke a lot of sense. Kevin McStay was always someone I enjoyed hearing from too. Yet again, I don’t think he was trying to make headlines.

“He just came across as a very natural person. That’s the kind of people I like to listen to, and I’m going through that period now, seeing the other side.”

Through his playing days Cavanagh would bat off criticism that came his way but, a year after leaving the inter-county stage, admits at times it was impossible to ignore what was being said about Tyrone - and himself.

“No matter what a player tells you, and I would’ve been one of those guys myself, trying to convince myself and the outside world that you don’t pay any heed to what’s being said, you do,” he continued.

“Either consciously or subconsciously, you always hear about it because that’s what people about. They talk about what’s spoken on The Sunday Game on a Sunday night or what’s written in The Irish News on a Monday morning. That’s life.

“It angered me at times. Any time you would’ve seen a Brolly or a Spillane or an O’Rourke taking a cut at Tyrone, it was always easy to get angry and create a siege mentality within the team.”

The advent of social media has taken the level of scrutiny to another level, and the three-time All-Ireland winner feels it is an unhealthy development for the current crop of players.

“At times it maybe got to you and you partially got to see some of the issues that people maybe would have with the mental health side of things. That’s become a huge thing.

“For some of the younger generation, living in the social media world, it can get you down an awful lot more because there’s an awful lot of negativity out there.

“Luckily I got to spend most of my career in the real world where you just got to enjoy the genuine people and those you saw every day. But the social media world has just become a whole new realm where now you’re very accessible to people.

“I’ve seen guys I’ve played with maybe get nasty messages after games and fail to recover from that for a while. It really gets them into a tough place, and that’s not nice. Unfortunately there are people in the world who thrive on that.”

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