Cavanagh: ‘Could I go back for 2021? I’m keeping myself in good nick here, who knows?’

COLM CAVANAGH HASN’T ruled out the prospect of making a surprise return to the Tyrone fold in 2021.

The 33-year-old announced his inter-county retirement after a stellar career last September, ahead of the 2020 championship. 

Mickey Harte’s departure in December paved the way for Fergal Logan and Brian Dooher to take over as joint managers.

Dooher and Cavanagh won an All-Ireland together under Harte in 2008 — Tyrone’s last Sam Maguire victory. Backroom team members Joe McMahon and Collie Holmes also lined out with Cavanagh during the tail-end of their careers.

Given the current uncertainty around the 2021 inter-county season, Cavanagh admitted the thought of a comeback has been on his mind in recent weeks.

“I don’t know whether it’s part of my mindset of [thinking], ‘Jeez, could I go back for 2021? I’m keeping myself in good nick here, who knows?’” he said.

“My patterns haven’t changed, I’m probably training five out of seven nights of the week still. Running and bodyweight stuff at home and a wee bit of weights at home as well. 

“Physically, I’m probably fit as I’ve ever been.”

The Moy midfielder admitted he found the first championship campaign of his retirement “mentally challenging” .

“It was a very strange adjustment period and I found it a wee bit weird. There was a part of me going, ‘Why did I step away? Why did I not go back in and play? I’m still able.’”

Cavanagh said the new set-up has brought an excitement back to the county and he feels Tyrone will employ a more attacking style going forward.

Lee Brennan and Connor McAliskey have rejoined the set-up, with Mark Bradley and Dungannon Clarkes sharpshooter Paul Donaghy also part of the squad.

“You see it a lot with soccer teams that whenever a new manager comes in there’s always that optimism and fresh approach,” said Cavanagh.

Colm Cavanagh was speaking at the announcement of the Electric Ireland Minor Special Recognition Awards.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“There was that element where Mickey knew the players that he liked and who he wanted to play, there was a staple of guys there. This new approach will bring that optimism and enthusiasm, and obviously with the forwards the guys have, but just that guys have to prove themselves again. Guys have to go back to the beginning. 

“From talking to a few of players over the last number of months, through Zooms and we’ve a guy in our office here who is part of the panel, I think there’s an overall consensus that the guys are really buzzing for this season and looking forward to that different approach.

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“Seeing the backroom team they guys have put together, I’m very optimistic about their chances. Personally, I think it’s going to be a lot more of a player-led approach in terms of trying to get the best out of the players and what can they do to help the players perform on the day.

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“I think in the last number of years it probably hasn’t been that way. So it’s a complete reversal in terms of the old and new management systems. I think it will bring new desire and positives to the group.”

He said when making his decision to step away from inter-county duty, the thought of playing without crowds helped push him out the exit door.

“That was part of the decision making process last year and the fact there was no crowds. Watching Dublin win the All-Ireland was strange as there was nobody there. Not having anybody there if you won the All-Ireland, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much.”

But for Cavanagh, a small part of him feared the prospect of Tyrone winning the All-Ireland while he was sitting at home looking on.

“Before I stepped away I had to be comfortable. I always weighed up the worse case scenario, ie Tyrone winning an All-Ireland with me stepping away mid-season,” said the two-time All-Star.

“I had to be comfortable in my own skin that I could support the guys and do that. When I put all down on paper it obviously weighed up that I could. 

“It would be bitter sweet, no doubt. People telling you that, say in my case for example if Tyrone had won the All-Ireland, that it didn’t annoy them, it would like.

“The majority of you, 90% would be pure joy for the lads and the guys that you soldiered with for years and years that really deserved a medal. To get that recognition, that would be the overwhelming sensation.

“But there would be that part of me that would be sitting there going, why did I not just stay on and play on. But look, that’s life. Looking at where we are, in terms of the pandemic and everything else at the moment, there are bigger things than football at play.

“But 100% agree, I think if Tyrone had have won it would have been a bittersweet moment for me.”

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