The view from up north

GAA: All Ireland SFC Final - Interview

Looking forward: Colm Cavanagh always felt there was an All Ireland in this Tyrone team. Photo: Sportsfile

Looking forward: Colm Cavanagh always felt there was an All Ireland in this Tyrone team. Photo: Sportsfile

Former Tyrone player Colm Cavanagh thinks that this year his county are finally playing with the handbrake off and with a lack of fear of making mistakes - and that could be key to them seeing off Mayo on Saturday.

Cavanagh, who won two All-Stars during his time with the Red Hand men, stepped away from the inter-county game last season, but did consider coming back into the fold when management duo Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan took over the side.

Commenting on what is different this year as to other years he has seen, Cavanagh said: They seem to be playing a lot more freely and nearly without fear.

"I would have said in the last couple of years, watching Tyrone and playing for Tyrone, that there was an awful lot of playing with the handbrake on and there was an awful lot of fear of making mistakes.

"And I don’t know what that is, but being part of those teams, you just knew you were going to get read up in video analysis or whatever it was and boys were nearly afraid to take them chances.

"Watching Tyrone this year, the guys are making mistakes, there’s no doubt they made plenty of mistakes at the weekend and have done in the games gone by, but they are definitely taking a lot more risks and they are getting the rewards for it.

"It’s probably one of those things, change of management, change of style, and change of approach. All of those things have sort of gathered in together and you see things happening in the games, kicking long balls in, sometimes aimlessly, that would never have happened over the last number of years.

"There are things they are doing now and they have obviously been told, ‘Go out lads and play football’. There will be mistakes being made but ultimately you have to live and die by it.

"It’s definitely changed this year, from what I can see. The guys, even chatting to a few of them, they’ll tell you the same, they’re definitely playing with a lot more freedom and, I wouldn’t say enjoyment, but they are able to take that risk that they probably wouldn’t have taken in years gone by."

Not surprised that Tyrone have got this far

The 34-year-old isn't that surprised that his county have reached this year's final, having been in the belly of the set-up until this term and seeing first hand the quality of players the Ulster champions have at their disposal.

He said: "From a supporter point of view, I am probably more hopeful than anything, in terms of it. It is a difficult one, you probably talk to any of the lads who have left that panel over the last number of years and they’ll tell you and I’ve probably been saying over the last couple of years, there is probably an All Ireland in that team and I've been harping on and it probably hasn’t come to fruition because of the Dublin dominance. But from being in that circle for a few years and seeing the quality of players, with the addition of Conor McKenna coming back like, when you were chatting to lads internally, they know they have a chance of winning the All Ireland.

"Supporters-wise, there is probably not the same optimism. They probably felt Tyrone this year could have a decent run and an Ulster title and that would be it, from talking to some supporters, but from anyone who is in around that circle, you know you have to have that belief and determination that you can win something and that definitely has been there and has been for a couple of years."

As for what the mood is now amongst supporters in Tyrone since their win over Kerry in the semi-final - they believe that Tyrone will win on Saturday, he says.

"Possibly, I would imagine anyone I have been speaking to to date has been saying - you know whoever came through the Tyrone v Kerry semi-final, will win the All Ireland.

"The expectation has probably shifted a wee bit, obviously getting over Kerry and Dublin is no longer there - the soundbites coming out of Tyrone people are that they are fairly confident they can do this and hopefully get over the line and I think that has slightly shifted now. I don’t think anyone is under any illusions that Mayo are going to bring a massive performance like.

"Looking at the two teams from a Mayo v Tyrone point of view, the intensity and the rawness that they brought to the two semi-finals was amazing to watch - it really makes for an interesting final, the two semi-finals were fairly exciting - the two teams are fairly experienced at this stage."

What Mayo bring to the table

Looking at it from his view point as to what Mayo will bring to the table come 5pm on Saturday, it's going to be an all-out high-intensity encounter, he thinks.

"Look, we obviously haven’t had much success over the last long number of years playing them and when it comes to the big days, they seem to be able to get our measure.

"Tyrone people know what they are going to get with Mayo, they do play that kind of high-intensity game and they take risks, they are aggressive; all the things they have shown in the semi-final, you are going to get.

"Playing Dublin or some of these teams - they are a bit more measured and all that, but I think Mayo just bring a chaotic piece and it’s pure heart and soul and aggression and so, from looking at that, the Tyrone team they are looking that they will bring something similar - so it should make for a fairly intense outing."

McKenna can be the magic man

Conor McKenna could be the difference-maker for Tyrone on Saturday evening, Cavanagh believes, saying: "Conor hasn’t in all fairness had his best year - he came in last year and really shone and looked to be flying, but this year has been a bit stop-start for him. But the one thing about him, he has that ability to turn a game on its head, as we saw against Kerry, where he scored two goals. The big thing for me is that he has that X-factor that can change a game - a lot of other players would have got those balls where he got them and fisted them over the bar or took the handy option.

"He seems to be fairly ruthless in what he is doing and like, Tyrone will need that. If Tyrone get an eye for goal they have to take it, and luckily he is an absolute natural athlete as well, he does add that serious pace and power when he gets going - any soundbites I’m hearing is that he does be flying in training. But I do think if Tyrone are going to turn Mayo, he will need to have a big performance. To date he has been stop-start, albeit changing games with goals. Watch the way he plays, he plays with no fear, he definitely is pure all out heart and doesn’t care whether he makes mistakes or not - that has been lacking in Tyrone for years.

"I heard one of the lads saying at the beginning of the year I think - that he had come in last year and said, lads ye are all playing with fear - ye are all afraid to make mistakes - and that is someone who has just come back from a professional set up. He is definitely that person that can change a game for Tyrone, especially if things are going badly in the final; he will be one that can potentially step up and win a game for them."

Getting the bench calls right

Tyrone's strength from the bench against Kerry was a key factor in their win over the Munster champions, with both Cathal McShane and Darragh Canavan making huge impacts. There might be a slight draw on the Tyrone management to start the duo on Saturday evening, but Cavanagh thinks their management duo will hold them in reserve to see out the game down the home stretch - but warns that it could be too little too late if Mayo pull well ahead.

"The starting forwards didn’t light it up and scoring came from the defenders more. I think the way they are looking at it at the minute, is that they are arguing that they are finishing with a stronger team than they started with. I do think there is a bit of risk if Mayo were to get too far ahead and try and bring lads on to change the game too late on, it might not actually work.

"There were question marks over McShane’s fitness over the last four to six weeks: is he fully fit, will he be fully fit for a full game; I don’t know if he is, if he was, the lads would probably be starting him, so I think there is an argument there to be had that, you know, let us set the game up.

"If you look at the Dubs during the years with Kevin McManamon coming on and changing the game, Tyrone are going to need that. If you start McShane or Darragh Canavan, have you the same fire power coming off the bench at that stage? I don’t think you do. If the game was going away from them and McShane was starting, it is very hard to change that.

"I think they will stick with what they are doing and hope that it works for them, there is a slight risk for that too if you leave it too late for McShane, but he is definitely doing the business at the minute."

Colm Cavanagh was speaking as part of a AIB Media event in the lead up to the All Ireland final.


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