Worries for players hiding potential Covid symptoms and lack of recognition for brother's retirement

Seán Cavanagh was speaking ahead of the inter-county action that gets underway this weekend.

SEÁN CAVANAGH SUSPECTS that some GAA players may attempt to hide any potential Covid-19 symptoms as the inter-county action returns this weekend.

rte-gaa-championship-launch-2020 Seán Cavanagh pictured alongside Joanne Cantwell and Oisin McConville. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

The former Tyrone star made the point as part of a wider discussion with Kerry legend Pat Spillane, about the impact of coronavirus on GAA competitions for the rest of 2020.

The pair were speaking on a zoom call to mark the launch of RTÉ’s GAA championship coverage this week.

Cavanagh feels that the ongoing situation with the virus may give rise to players concealing any potential symptoms they might develop.

The competitive nature of players might work against them in this regard, and may influence them to avoid declaring any symptoms in a bid to continue playing.

“It probably creates a culture now,” says Cavanagh, “that players will almost and will be encouraged to hide potential symptoms of sickness and illness which is kind of a scary thing because if I was a county player going into the game and I started to have symptoms and it could be Covid-related.

“I was one of these guys that just always wanted to get on with it and never wanted to diminish my chances or the team’s chances, I know I would be feeling, ‘Right I have to conceal this’ and that’s the scarier thing for me, that there’s going to be pressure on players, I have no doubt, either individually or from a team perspective, that as they start to have symptoms to go and keep away from people, don’t disclose close contacts.”

Spillane disagrees with this theory, and says he is confident that players will act responsibly when it comes to the threat of Covid-19. He also has faith in the rapid testing procedures that will be rolled out for county teams.

“I think we’re underestimating these guys,” says Spillane.

“The responsibility these lads will show and with the rapid testing and all, I don’t think, I really don’t believe there’s an inter-county player who will chance his arm with a symptom and try and play in a big match.” 

Cavanagh retired from the Tyrone team in 2017, following an impressive career that yielded three All-Ireland medals.

colm-cavanagh-and-sean-cavanagh Brothers Colm and Seán Cavanagh in action together for Tyrone. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The last of those Celtic Crosses came in 2008 alongside his brother Colm who recently called time on his own inter-county career last month. He was the last remaining link with that ’08 squad, and finished up his years of service to the Red Hand county with two All-Star awards.

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The county board retweeted his retirement announcement on social media, but did not publish any tribute message following the 33-year-old’s exit from the inter-county game. 

His older brother says was this was “a big surprise” to him.

“I have spoken to Colm about it,” Cavanagh begins, “because it was a little bit bizarre because he was a serious servant, although I have seen it here before. I don’t think we give enough on reflection to some players that have really brought the fight for our counties for a long number of years.

“I saw players who retired after winning three All-Irelands in the late noughties in a similar position, so it is not just Colm, I would say that. It was a big surprise given the fact he led the fight and showed leadership on the field for the last couple of years, at times almost single-handedly, it was an oversight.

“It was a little bit strange and probably disappointing from our point of view.” 

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