GAA Football

'If the guys would be willing or even thinking of coming back to approach me, it would be nice'

Former Tyrone footballer Colm Cavanagh, pictured following the announcement of the winners of the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Special Recognition Awards. The awards were established by Electric Ireland to recognise minors who have gone above and beyond in their community during the challenges of Covid-19, and winners include Michael Quinn, Josh Schnell, Shane McKenna, and Niall Óg McGuigan (Antrim, Ulster), Ciarán Caulfield (Meath, Leinster), Tomás Lynch (Limerick, Munster) and Jack Beirne, Andrew Jordan and Mark Rogers (Roscommon, Connacht). Picture by INPHO
Neil Loughran

AS he talked himself back and forth, you can tell Colm Cavanagh is torn. When he made the decision, that was it – 13 years, five Ulsters, a couple of Allstars and an All-Ireland, he was happy with his lot.

The prospect of playing in empty grounds did nothing for him. At this stage of his career, it was about making memories for himself, his young family and his community – not slogging it out in what looked like glorified challenge matches.

But then, a lot has happened since September. There was the Championship first of all, and Tyrone’s quarter-final exit to Donegal at a rain-lashed Ballybofey. Most significantly, though, was Mickey Harte’s departure after 18 years at the helm.

With the Red Hands, Cavanagh had only ever known the sound of Harte’s voice. Now there is a new management team in charge containing Feargal Logan and former team-mates Brian Dooher, Joe McMahon, Collie Holmes and Peter Donnelly.

The possibility of one last crack at something new, something fresh? This is the dilemma and, even after conversations with big brother Sean, it’s still eating at him now.

“The new setup is probably the key for me,” said the 33-year-old.

“I spoke to Sean many times over the years and even after I retired; it came as a shock to him that I actually stepped away, but he obviously said as well that curiosity of what it would be like to go again under something different, something new and something refreshing.

“That bit of me is just very curious and I suppose hoping that Tyrone will be there or thereabouts. They have a serious set up there at the moment in terms of players and skills and talents and that side of me would lead you to go ‘can I step back in and do this again?’ The other side of me is knowing the way I am built - I’m either 100 per cent in or 100 per cent out.

“I suppose I know a lot of the guys who are involved now personally, and I’ve played with them over the years. Part of me was sitting going ‘I’ve played 13 years under the one regime, what is a short season?’

“If the guys would be willing or even thinking of coming back to approach me, it would be nice. But ultimately there’s a lot of things that are going to come into play here if it was to happen.”

Counties were due to return to training on January 15 but, due to the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions, that has been put back until the end of January at least. It has been suggested the resumption could even wait until the middle of next month, with the National League starting in mid-to-late March instead of the final weekend in February.

That has bought Cavanagh a bit more time to mull it over and while he admits it remains unlikely, the Moy man is refusing to rule out a return just yet.

“We had a discussion before Christmas, just around what the thoughts were - I did sort of rule myself in that regard just at that time.

“I said maybe we would touch base again in January just to see how things are. I wanted to just wind down and enjoy my Christmas and didn’t want to be involved in anything too heavy.

“The guys obviously anticipated that they were going to kick on in January in terms of training and whatnot, but obviously that has not happened.

“But look, there are a lot of good lads that have stepped in, they have obviously refreshed the panel and there’s some good new faces involved in the setup so I’m torn between things. There’s obviously a bit of temptation there, but who knows?

“I would never have completely ruled it out, but I think at this stage unless something changes in my head over the next few weeks then I’ll probably not see a return - but I wouldn’t 100 per cent rule it out at this stage.”

EXCITING TIMES AHEAD FOR TYRONE WITH DYNAMIC DUO: CAVANAGH

PLAYING in a team boasting the twin talents of Conor McKenna and Cathal McShane is one of the main factors that has led Colm Cavanagh to consider a u-turn on his inter-county career.

McKenna made a big impact in the short playing time he had after returning from a successful three year spell in the world of Aussie Rules, and is likely to be a focal point of the new Tyrone team under joint managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher.

McShane, meanwhile, is on the comeback trail after injuries kept him out of action for much of 2020. If he can get back to the kind of form that saw him pick up an Allstar in 2019, the Red Hand attack could become an irresistible force.

“I am looking at the talent there, especially with the guys in the forward line - it is frightening some of the guys who are there at the moment,” said Cavanagh.

“I would not like to be a forward in this Tyrone team at the moment because there will be a tooth and nail fight for positions. That side of me would love to step back in to see because I said it in the last two or three years, I do think there is an All-Ireland in that group of players.

“There are obviously going to be tweaks with the players coming back in and out. Obviously Conor coming back is a massive plus, he is a great athlete and a fantastic player and Cathal coming back after injury.

“People say to me would you not give it one more lash seeing there is a lot of talent there and push on and win an All-Ireland, which would be nice. To me winning is very important but when you step out of it, you realise that it is not everything in that regard, it is more the experience is very important as well.

“A fresh new approach doesn’t always guarantee success and Tyrone had always been there or thereabouts and obviously didn’t get there but you have to remember we were in an All-Ireland in 2018, a few semi-finals, quarter-finals.

“You’re effectively starting fresh for Feargal and Brian here again.”

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