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'It was an absolute honour to play against one of the best defenders the game has ever seen'

Sean Cavanagh and Marc Ó Sé clashed when their clubs met on Saturday, but there was no lasting animosity between the pair.

FOR ONE FINAL time, Sean Cavanagh will line out at Croke Park in an All-Ireland final this weekend.

In the aftermath of Tyrone’s heavy semi-final defeat to Dublin last August, an emotional Cavanagh spent time on the pitch with his family in the belief it was the last game he’d play at HQ.

Five months later Cavanagh will return to Croke Park with his club Moy Tir na nOg in search of the All-Ireland intermediate club title.

“It’s unchartered waters, if I’m honest,” said Cavanagh. “We hadn’t won a championship of any sort since 1982 – the year before I was born.

“The town has been buzzing the last couple of months. I suspect this week won’t be much different. We’re just riding the crest of a wave for the minute.”

To secure their place in the final against Michael Glavey’s of Roscommon, Moy hit 1-2 in stoppage-time to see off An Ghaeltacht in a low-scoring affair.

During the second-half of that clash, Cavanagh was involved in a heated scuffle with his old foe Marc Ó Sé, player-manager of the Kerry club.

“I was quite close to the incident where their 14 [Eanna O Conchúir] had struck out at one of our lads,” Cavanagh explained.

“I was only a couple of feet away from it. I obviously saw it happen and I wasn’t sure whether anyone else had seen it. I wanted to go over and I think it was David Gough on the line.

AIB All Ireland Junior and Intermediate Club Finals Media Day Cavanagh was in Croke Park for the AIB All-Ireland junior and intermediate club finals media day Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

“I went over and the exact words I said to David, ‘Did you see that?’ He said, ‘No, I didn’t see it’. I said, ‘Well, can you go and ask the umpires and linesmen because there was a strike there’. He said they were all wired up.

“Marc didn’t take it too well that I was bringing it to his attention. Probably, I suspected, because I was there and he was marking me, he saw what happened and knew the dangers if I highlighted it more than he wanted it to be highlighted.

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“He was coaching their team as well. He knew there was a danger that if I highlighted it, their full-forward was going to get lined. He was protecting his own and I was at the opposite end of the piece. So, yeah, completely and I would probably have done the same if I was him.

“What it epitomised was two guys who just wanted to win more so than anything. That was Saturday’s game, it was very intense, it wasn’t pretty at times. It was two teams wanting to win at all costs.

“Both teams held the ball for long periods and weren’t willing to play any purist football. That’s winter football, the conditions were tough and ultimately both teams just wanted to get over the line.

“It was a wee bit fraca in the middle but all good GAA stories have something like that in them.”

Cavanagh and Ó Sé were on opposite ends of the heated Tyrone-Kerry rivalry in the noughties, and met in the 2005 and 2008 All-Ireland finals, but there was only respect between the pair at the full-time whistle.

“Myself and Marc have soldiered together for a long time,” continued Cavanagh. “We’ve played International Rules and played against him for Tyrone and also in Railway Cups. There’s the utmost respect there and I really enjoyed playing against him on Saturday.

“It was quite emotional because we knew it was the last time. We shook hands before the game, we shook hands after. I told him what I thought of him after the game, I told him it was an absolute honour to play against one of the best defenders the game has ever seen.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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