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Cavanagh Contemplates Possibilities After Turning Down Tyrone Approach

Cavanagh Contemplates Possibilities After Turning Down Tyrone Approach

Colm Cavanagh found himself in an unfamiliar situation on Saturday. Tyrone were in big game at Croke Park, and he wasn't involved - he wasn't even at the stadium.

"Believe it or not, I didn't get to it.  I had prior commitments to a friend's stag party," says AIB ambassador Cavanagh.

"I watched it on TV or whatnot. It was enjoyable to watch. It sort of had a bit of everything in it, good, bad and ugly.

"Probably the first time this whole year I've watched Tyrone play and been really excited about it and jumped off the seat, I don't think I've every done that in the past."

Cavanagh retired from inter-county football in September, just prior to the start of Mickey Harte's final championship campaign at the Tyrone reins. However, had he wished to return when Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan were installed as Harte's replacements, the door was open.

Colm Cavanagh rejected Brian Dooher Tyrone offer

"Ach yeah, always," he says when asked if he wondered what could have been while watching Tyrone beat Kerry at the weekend.

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"Especially when the question did get asked in December [last year] or January this year, would I go back by a couple of different people in the set-up.

"It was from Brian. He reached out pre-Christmas. I told him that I'd wait until after Christmas to make any decision. I did mull over it a good number of weeks before I came back to them.

"They felt that there was still a role of some sort for me to play. It's not something that you can go into half-heartedly, and not being able to give that full commitment, because you'll get found out quickly if you are half doing it, given the intensity and the fitness levels it takes.

"My wife was trying to get me to go back. She was saying, 'Oh, it's going to be a short season. You only have to commit for a few months’.

"With the work scenario and also not having the headspace for it - because I gave so much to it the previous 13-and-a-half years... You have to live and breathe this thing to have any sort of success. I just couldn't go back into that bubble again, even though there was a slight draw from the changes in the setup.

"If they ring me now, maybe I'll give them a different answer at this stage!"

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colm cavanagh tyrone brian dooher approach

September 1st, 2021: The All-Ireland Football Final – IT’S ON! AIB ambassador, Colm Cavanagh (Moy Tír Na nÓg GAC and former Tyrone footballer), pictured ahead of the GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final as long-time rivals Mayo and Tyrone meet in a mouth-watering final to round off #TheToughest knockout season of summer football.

Cavanagh says there was an allure to the idea of working under a new management team.

"I remember doing an interview way back in December or January, and of the titles was 'Cavanagh can't stomach playing for Mickey Harte'. It was probably taken a wee bit out of context," he says.

"I just wasn't enjoying the setup as a whole, and where things were at. That was more to do with myself.

"That was one thing I had to decide on, that there would be a different setup, different approach to how they would be doing everything.

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"From tactics, to video analysis, to training styles. People don't realise that there are so many things and aspects of a setup. There was a part of me that did want to experience that. I wish it had happened a wee bit earlier in my career, when I was still fit and well to give something to them."

The 2008 All-Ireland winner feels there is very little resemblance between the Tyrone's style of play under Dooher and Logan and that of the previous management.

"Obviously, for parts of the Kerry game they reverted back to a counter-attacking game, especially when the black cards came," he says.

"But, you know, there's a lot more emphasis now on keeping people up the pitch than there was before and trying to stop things high up the pitch. There's an awful lot more intensity and work-rate from what I can see.

"Again, that's more around the system and style they're playing. They're trying to take more risks and be more adventurous. The teams I played on, we did try to do that, but we did revert back to trying to get men behind the ball and shuffling left to right. I just think when you're trained to play that type of football it can be very difficult to break that cycle where you're playing a certain way. Without a change in management and change of players happening, it's very hard to do that.

"They've definitely changed, there's obviously some glimpses there of what they've been working on for the last five or six years. There's definitely a freshness to what they're doing and they're definitely taking more risks and they seem to be given the licence to go out and play football and be a bit freer. Whereas in the years gone past it hasn't really been the case."

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colm cavanagh tyrone brian dooher approach

11 August 2019; Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone blocks a shot by Paul Murphy of Kerry during the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Though he is no longer involved with the panel, Cavanagh does get the odd insight into the practices of the joint-managers through colleague, and Tyrone squad member, Ben McDonnell.

"I'm fairly close to him and I'd be chatting to him about their weekly schedules and what they're doing," says Cavanagh.

"I suppose nobody really sees what goes on behind [the scenes] in terms of the Covid and lockdowns. They were doing Zoom meetings where the guys had to analyse games. They spent an awful lot of time around doing that sort of thing and when they were back training they were obviously working really, really hard.

"Knowing what these county teams go through at the moment in terms of commitment level and the sacrifices they're making, when they get a bit of joy and reward from it then it's very refreshing from my perspective.

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"I've been there and seen it to a certain degree. I think the change of management has been like a breath of fresh air for the lads, everything seems to be coming together and there's an enjoyment factor back for the lads.

"I can genuinely hold my hand on my heart and say I’m really happy for the lads. We’ve been chatting in Tyrone for about two or three years now, saying there is an All-Ireland in that team. It’s just when it’s going to come.

"I’m just hoping it’s going to come this year, because there’s a lot of lads there that have been through the trenches over the last five, six, seven years. The Mattie Donnellys, the Peter Hartes and whatnot.

"There isn’t any player in either [the Tyrone or Mayo] set-up that’s got an All-Ireland medal. So it’s just going to make it very interesting."

Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

See Also: The Reaction To Kerry's Defeat Shows The Problem With GAA Punditry

colm cavanagh tyrone brian dooher approach

PJ Browne
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