Sports

‘Red Hands can go all the way’

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

‘Red Hands can go all the way’ thumbnailTyrone captain Sean Cavanagh is optimistic he might just be lifting more than the Ulster Championship in 2017

SEAN Cavanagh believes Tyrone can go a step further and compete in an All-Ireland semi-final, and possibly the September decider this year.

Cavanagh feels the current squad failed to fulfil its potential in losing narrowly to Mayo in 2016, and that a hunger exists among the players to challenge for Sam Maguire.

“There definitely is that feeling that the squad has something to prove and the squad can hopefully take that extra step and go towards a semi-final or a final. I think that's where we think we can compete if we do consider ourselves to be a top four or top five side, that's what we have to do," he told GAA.ie.

After winning a first Ulster title in 2016, the Red Hands were perfectly placed to take on the best in the country, and that includes the great Dublin team that eventually won a second successive All-Ireland title.

“You always do. I think most teams and players would think the same. But, yeah, I suppose if you had of asked me after the Ulster Final could we match up to the Dubs, I'd have said absolutely.

“We didn't get our chance to do that, and that's a regret, because you want to be playing the best teams in those pressurised scenarios of a semi-final or final.

“Because that's where you'll really find out what you're made of and what your team-mates are made of. You just have to admire a team that has gone through whatever it is, 24 or 25 championship matches, and lost just one of them.

“And even the one they lost, they probably lost it from over-committing and Donegal catching them on the counter. They lost it down to a system-error rather than an actual poor performance.

“Jim Gavin has just made a serious machine there. But, look, if we didn't think we could beat them we wouldn't be training as hard as we are to try to get up to their level.

“It's up to everyone else to take it on a notch. Okay, they do have more resources than most counties, but at the same time when you get on a cold, training pitch, they only have an hour and a half to train the same way we have an hour and a half of training.

“Other teams have to make it count to bridge that gap that's there at the moment."

Cavanagh was fulsome in his praise for the Dubs, who once again conquered all before them to prove that they are one of the greatest gaelic football teams of all time.

“To be honest, I didn't think that a team was good enough to dominate the way Dublin have dominated."

Cavanagh, who recently confirmed he will return for another year in the Tyrone colours, admits he hankers for the golden era of the noughties, when he won three All-Ireland medals.

“I remember winning back to back Ulster titles in '09 and 2010 and at the time I didn't even hardly recognise that as success. I just looked at them as another game that gets us to an All-Ireland quarter-final.

“But in five years watching Donegal and Monaghan win Ulster, then all of a sudden it gets the juices flowing again. And when we won it this year it really meant a lot to the county and it meant a lot to me personally.

“It's the same with Sam. I suppose from '03 to '08 I just took it as normal that we were going to be there or thereabouts every year and winning it every couple of years.

“Now we haven't seen it for eight years, and it fairly hits home. When we won it in '03 I remember touring around with it and people telling me stories about going to ever All-Ireland Final for 50 years and never seeing Tyrone win it.

It didn't really mean an awful lot to me because I was a 19 or 20-year-old lad who was riding the crest of a wave.

“But now you really can relate to those stories whereby it's gone eight or nine years and you begin to forget what it's like to be the champion of Ireland. I feel now that we have the team that can probably compete at that level again.

“For a few years there you were asking questions about whether you could do it. I think we have a serious quality team that can do it now. But just because you have the ability to do something doesn't mean you do it. We have a big step to make, but we're striving to make it."

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