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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 20 January, 2019

Sean Cavanagh taking the lead from 'humble' Kilkenny legends as he looks to bow out in style

“They’re very modest, humble individuals. That’s definitely the secret to an awful lot of successes.”

THE END IS nigh.

At some point over the next few months, Sean Cavanagh will play his last game for Tyrone. He backtracked on his initial decision to step away at the end of the 2016 campaign, after a disappointing All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Mayo.

Sean Cavanagh Source: James Crombie/INPHO

This season, Cavanagh assures us, will really be the his last in the white and red of Tyrone.

Sunday will be his last Ulster final on the field of play, but Cavanagh insists he’ll prepare for this game like he would any other one.

“You’re aware of it but you don’t dwell on it too much,” he says. “It still is another game of football, another championship game. I’ve been blessed the amount of times I’ve been able to put on a Tyrone jersey in championship football.

“Will Sunday’s game define me as a player? I doubt it. If we win will it go down as one of the highlights of my career? Probably.”

EirGrid ‘Moments in Time’ Campaign Launch Sean Cavanagh at the EirGrid Moments in Time campaign launch. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE


It’s been quite the journey for the Moy man. Three All-Ireland titles and six provincial crowns have been annexed during his exceptional career , but Cavanagh remains determined to bow out on a high.

“I’m the type of person that doesn’t get too caught up in any moment. That’s the secret to anyone’s success – try to keep the head down and keep refocused on the next challenge.

“I think every sportsperson will tell you something similar. One thing that always struck me about all the best players…You’ve Eddie Brennan here and I’ve met the Kilkenny guys at All-Star events before and they’ve won much more than we’ve won.

EirGrid ‘Moments in Time’ Campaign Launch Sean Cavanagh was in Croke Park today to launch the ‘EirGrid Moments in Time’ campaign, as part of its timing partnership with the GAA. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

“They’re always very modest, humble individuals. I think that’s definitely the secret to an awful lot of successes. That’s one thing I’ve been acutely aware of over the years, trying not to get too far ahead of yourself and keep the head down.

“I’m still doing that. Maybe in a couple of years time I’ll be telling you how I was a great footballer, but certainly not yet now.”

Tyrone meet Down in the Ulster final, a side that have caused them trouble throughout Cavanagh’s career.

“They’re a good, confident bunch of players. I’ve no doubt they’ll be coming to Clones on Sunday expecting a win and we have to bring our A game.

“They beat us in ’08 after a replay up in Newry. They had us beaten in the Ulster final in ’03 as well, they were nine up and they went down to 14 men. Greg McCartan got sent off and it probably let us back into the game. In ’14 they took us to a replay so we’ve never had it easy against them.

David McKibbin and Conor McCarthy Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

“We’ve never played them and had a game where we were convincing winners so I’m very aware of the type of football they play. When they’re confident and things are going well they’re as good as anyone in the game.”

The Red Hand attack caught fire in the semi-final win over Donegal, and Cavanagh believes it was merely the case of them taking the opportunities when the presented themselves.

“We felt in the league we were creating plenty of opportunities but we just weren’t converting for one reason or another. I remember in Omagh against Mayo we created maybe 25 scoring chances and converted 11 or 12.

“For one reason or another things just weren’t kicking, there wasn’t the fluency there in our attack. The way the game panned out against Donegal, we probably had more space than we generally would have had against Donegal in previous years. It allowed some of our deep running players to come through and kick scores.

“If you took a pen to paper and plotted out some of the scores that we’ve put up in the past two or three years…I know people sometimes hone in on the fact we do play defensively whenever other teams have the ball like most teams do, but we’ve got some really good scores in the process.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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