At­tack­ing mark may change the shape of things – Ca­vanagh

Ty­rone All Star says new rule may lead coun­ties to grav­i­tate to­wards big­ger men

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports - SEÁN MO­RAN In Philadel­phia

In a way, a ho­tel in Philadel­phia on this year’s PwC All Stars foot­ball trip is as good a spot as any for Colm Ca­vanagh to re­flect on his year.

His se­lec­tion at full back caused some con­tro­versy when an­nounced in Oc­to­ber, as he has played with a cen­tre­fielder’s jersey and was named there in last year’s All Stars.

Yet since 2015, he has been Ty­rone’s de­fen­sive linch­pin, play­ing at sweeper and or­ches­trat­ing from the back and his suc­cess do­ing that has en­abled him de­ci­sively to step out of his brother Seán’s shadow.

“I was sur­prised,” he says about the All Star, “but ob­vi­ously a nice sur­prise – de­lighted to be recog­nised again this year. I played a long time, nine years with­out any sort of per­sonal recog­ni­tion, al­beit, yeah, full-back. I prob­a­bly didn’t see my­self play­ing there as much.

“Ac­tu­ally, if any­thing, I prob­a­bly played more out the field this year than I had done in the prior year but, by the same to­ken, just de­lighted to be selected.”

Eval­u­ated

For­mer team-mate, now re­tired, Joe McMa­hon last year eval­u­ated Ca­vanagh’s role in an in­ter­view with Ea­mon Donoghue on th­ese pages:

“Colm Ca­vanagh’s abil­ity, I mean in that position [sweeper] – I don’t think there’s any player at present that is any­where near him be­cause for me, there is his abil­ity to drop back and spot dan­ger and then get for­ward.

“His abil­ity just to read the game, in what­ever sit­u­a­tion that they are in, for ex­am­ple if he sees a man com­ing into the zone that he’s cov­er­ing, he’s able to read it to push up and stop the easy score and easy pass.”

It is an irony that, as he him­self pointed out, Ca­vanagh prob­a­bly got for­ward more of­ten this year and that he con­sid­ers him­self a cen­tre­fielder.

But his best mo­ments were at the back, such as the tackle on Jack McCar­ron at the end of Au­gust’s All-Ire­land semi-fi­nal against Mon­aghan and his orches­tra­tion of the de­fence in the crit­i­cal quar­ter-fi­nal round against Done­gal – a dis­play de­scribed by man­ager Mickey Harte as the player’s best match for Ty­rone.

Black card

In­jury lim­ited his in­volve­ment but he played in 11 of the county’s 16 league and cham­pi­onship matches. Ex­cept­ing the league fix­ture against Mayo when he picked up an early black card, he played 692 min­utes out of 720 and Ty­rone con­ceded just seven goals on his watch.

In the All-Ire­land fi­nal against Dublin, and in last year’s semi-fi­nal against the same op­po­nents, Ca­vanagh was thrown in at full for­ward for the clos­ing phases. With the new rules be­ing tri­alled in the league – he thinks there are too many, which will put pres­sure on ref­er­ees – in­clud­ing an at­tack­ing mark, might he be needed there full-time?

“As a for­ward – I’m not a for­ward – I like the idea. I like the idea of a mark. It gives the inside for­ward that, you’re nearly re­ward­ing them for win­ning a good ball.”

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