"Were we ready to change our system? Probably not"

Sean Cavanagh on Tyrone's 2017 All-Ireland Semi-Final loss to Dublin

BY Jason Brennan 10:02 Tuesday 30 January 2018, 10:02 30 Jan 2018

An unwritten rule of sport is that until you put another win on the board you're going to have to field questions about your last loss.

That holds true even for retired players, with former Tyrone footballer Sean speaking to Off The Ball's Eoin Sheehan ahead of his Moy side's Intermediate All Ireland Club Final against Michael Claveys of Roscommon this weekend.  

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte had spoken recently in The Irish Times about his side's 2-17 to 0-11 loss to Dublin in the All Ireland Semi-Final last season, a defeat that was blamed on a lack of a Plan B following an early goal from Dublin's Con O'Callaghan.

Now the retired Cavanagh has had his say on the heavy defeat, and agreed with his former coach's assessment.

"I suppose that was the issue, in that the one thing in every game that we had played to date in the championship we had always contained teams and always managed to stay with them or get ahead of them and in most games we got ahead of them fairly early on and it allowed us to play that counter-attacking approach. So if I'm perfectly honest, were we ready to change our system? Probably not if I'm honest. I'd say Mickey would tell you the same, or should tell you the same".

"We as a player group, it shocked us, O'Callaghan's goal. We didn't see it coming. We were thinking, 'stay in the game, invite Dublin onto us, and play the style of footbal we're used to'. But you have to give Dublin credit for that. They did spot that we wanted to play like that and they changed it very quickly. They ran the ball down the wings, it was a dry day, they moved the ball through the hands incredibly quickly, they got their scores early and they imposed their game plan on us. For us, looking back on it, it was probably more of a gamble, and once Dublin took us out of our comfort zone we struggled, and we struggled badly".

With defeat put firmly behind the county now, Cavanagh looks forward to seeing a more attacking approach from Tyrone this season, noting the inclusion of former Tyrone forward Stephen O'Neill's inclusion as part of the coaching staff as a reason to be optimistic.

"Obviously they've brought in Stephen O'Neill. Stephen is probably one of the most if not the most instinctive forwards I've played with in terms of his football intelligence, the runs that he made off the ball, and he's pretty lethal whenever he had it as well. You can't coach that to guys, but I suppose Mickey has to trust him, and what Stephen wants to do has to marry into what Mickey wants to do ultimately with the team, and the style, and way in which you can change styles of play within games".

"I think most teams now are appreciating that they can't just be a slave to one system. Dublin are certainly ahead of the game with that. Dublin have so many strings to their bow and so many different ways of playing within a game and that's what you have to have. They're probably 20-30% ahead of the pack at this stage and everyone else is catching up". 


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