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Colm Cavanagh: Tyrone weren’t ‘player-led’ under Mickey Harte

colm cavanagh mickey harte

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“Whenever people are genuinely together – if that’s not there, you won’t win anything. Somewhere on the pitch at some point, you won’t back that man up or you won’t make that actual run or you won’t make that tackle and I do genuinely believe Tyrone haven’t had that.”

Colm Cavanagh believes that Tyrone were not player-led off the pitch, particularly in Mickey Harte’s latter years, and that ultimately cost them on the pitch.

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Mickey Harte

Throughout Cavanagh’s inter-county career, he was under the stewardship of manager Mickey Harte. Harte stepped down from his role following the Ulster defeat to Donegal.

While they had great successes together, the former Tyrone midfielder feels Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher will bring a “player-led” approach to proceedings, something that wasn’t there under Harte.

“It’s very hard to put this in words but yeah, Mickey did have a style of top down [leadership],” Cavanagh said.

“If you think of a business – where he was trying to bring you to do things in his way and what he thinks is best.

“Probably since when Mattie [Donnelly] came in as captain, that he did try to shift it a wee bit in terms of trying to get a lot more players involved and feedback.

“Mattie seen it that if you get everybody to buy in through a process of being player-led then I think the team as such is more bought into what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to achieve.”


Down through the years, Cavanagh felt that the management decided both on the pitch and off the pitch activities, which denied players the chance to get involved with decisions.

While the two-time All Star recognises the need for a strong management team, he does feel the younger team needed a ‘player-led’ approach.

“I know that wasn’t the case for a lot of years with Tyrone where it was sort of ‘this is what we’re doing, this is the way we’re doing it’ whether it was preparation or on field stuff,” Cavanagh continued.

“Whatever way we were preparing on the pitch, it was coming from the top. I still think you need that to a certain degree.

“Of course there has to be that respect and that place where there is a management team there but I think guys get bought into things a lot better if they feel a lot more involved.

“It’s probably the changing dynamic of youth and that generation. I do think the guys that have come in, just from speaking back and forward with players, that will be the case and there will be a lot more ‘player focussed’.

“Don’t get me wrong, they’ll work harder than they’ve ever worked before but they’ll feel like they want to do it more, and that can ultimately only, in my mind, be positive for the group.”

colm cavanagh
Colm Cavanagh was speaking at the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Special Recognition Awards Announcement.

Club mentality

Cavanagh believes developing a club mentality in a county jersey is a crucial component to success at inter-county level. While the 2008 All-Ireland winner doesn’t feel it was quite there in Tyrone, he looks on enviously at the Dublin team.

“It’s nearly trying to develop that club mentality in a county jersey and I personally don’t think that was there the last number of years with Tyrone. I think that was probably one of the things that was missing,” he explained.

“You look at the Dublin lads, from my side anyway, they nearly all seem best friends and all seem like they get on, and they all seem like they really go to the well.

“You only have to look at their intensity and work-rate. You can see it. They will back each other up to the hilt. That starts off the pitch.

colm cavanagh

Off the pitch

“Whenever people are genuinely together and things – if that’s not there, you won’t win anything,” Cavanagh continued.

“Somewhere on the pitch at some point, you won’t back that man up or you won’t make that actual run or you won’t make that tackle and I do genuinely believe Tyrone haven’t had that.

“With all the talent we’ve had over the years, I feel that wee extra bit that is there, that sort of bond and that gel holding together a team, wasn’t there.

“So I think this new approach will bridge that gap and I think they guys will really buy into that. Who knows whether it will bring success but it’s a positive step forward.

mickey harte

Recognising it during Mickey Harte’s reign

Colm Cavanagh was then asked whether he recognised the lack of club mentality developing under Mickey Harte during this career or since he’s been retired. “Both probably,” he replied.

“I did recognise it when I was there. One thing we’re blessed with in Tyrone was all the lads get on together, don’t get me wrong. There was no bad blood from anyone.

“Obviously you have guys who you’re closer to than others. That’s going to be the same in any group of players but I think what probably was missing was that sort of really, really, really strong bond together. I say that, it was probably there in the early part of my career.

“Simple things like boys after games going out on nights out together or doing team events. Boys were always in each other’s company and what not.

“I think it is there in Tyrone, it just probably could be improved on. I think it’s something if you can get right off the pitch, the on the pitch stuff will take care of itself.”

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