The GAA's inter-county Championship is at an end and autumn is upon us. Thus, per the calendar, it is book season as this year's autobiographies begin to hit the selves. One such contribution comes from Sean Cavanagh who has revealed the frightening treatment he was subjected to during his career.
Cavanagh infamously demonstrated why the black card was on the way when he pulled down Conor McManus in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final. However, the Tyrone man was on the receiving end of dirty strokes on more than one occasion. He was attacked by a spectator during an under-16 game, he had his front teeth knocked out by a shoulder and he was reduced to tears during the 2005 Ulster Championship semi-final against Cavan.
In his book, the Obsession, Cavanagh explained that his marker subjected him to constant off-the-ball treatment during the game, which ended in a draw. He claimed he was routinely bitten and spat on, and even tried to bring it to the attention of the officials but was told: "we can't do anything about anyone biting or spitting." This proved immensely frustrating.
I went into the changing room to gather my thoughts and in Clones you walk into a changing room where eighty per cent of the space is to the left-hand side - that's normally where Mickey went to give his team talks. But I sat on the right-hand side, where there was space for hardly anyone, and I burst into tears.
I bawled, trying to hide it from my team-mates, but you couldn't hide that.
"Jesus, Sean, what the fuck's going on?"
I told them: "This isn't football lads."
Mickey came over to me: "What's the deal?"
"I'm getting spat on, I've been bitten, I don't want to play this game."
Mickey and the lads calmed me down. I had already spent most of my Tyrone career getting special attention - shoulders, elbows, knees in the back - but that was nothing. This was my first taste of spitting and biting. A few of the guys came over and put their arms around my shoulder. "You'll be grand, we'll sort it out," they said.
Gormley came over too.
"What's the craic boy?"
"Your man is acting the bollox with me," I replied.
"Don't worry, we'll sort it," Gormley goes.
And they did.
In the opening exchanges of the second half, Cavanagh went for a ball with his marker as well as Gormley and one other Cavan player. He kept his eyes on the ball but heard his marker "howling like a hound" behind him. Come the replay, Cavanagh decided to keep moving and avoid confrontation.
The anecdote once again shines a spotlight on the lack of meaningful intervention from all officials to curb the undercurrent of off-the-ball altercations. Cavanagh explained he considered going public with his story and that his wife took a picture of his black and blue torso but he decided against it.
The book will be available for purchase on 13 September 2018 and is set to cover the entirety of his extraordinary career as well as his obsession to beat the arthritis that threatened to end it.