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The Mastermind of Tyrone Football & Glorious All Ireland Victories Of
2003 & 2005
Fans of Gaelic Football in Tyrone believe Peter Canavan to be amongst the All Time Greatest of Gaelic Footballers in the Land. Peter was certainly an iconic figure for Tyrone football and when the O’Neill county made history in 2003, by winning their first ever All Ireland senior title,the Errigal Ciarán legend was the architect in charge on the field.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Seán Purcell’s, Frank Stockwell’s and Mikey Sheehy’s of bygone eras, is a huge comparison, simply because the style of football and tactics that prevailed for the aforesaid legends, was beyond comparison to the tactics and style of play adopted by Tyrone, when Peter Canavan was at his zenith.
Peter Canavan is a 20th and 21st century football legend, and one of the really good modern footballers to rival many of the greats of gaelic football down through the decades. Tyrone fans elevated Peter to super stardom status, baptising him as "Peter The Great" and when he played in Tyrone’s colours, opponent managers had to hatch a special plan to limit his influence.
A player of silken skills, guile, deft distribution and a majestic scoretaker, marked him in a really special class. The Tyrone footballer was noted for his exemplary sportsmanship and leadership of his colleagues. He will also be hallmarked in history, as the first ever Tyrone man to receive The Sam Maguire Cup on All Ireland final day in 2003, with victory over reigning title holders and near neighbours, Armagh.
The low point of Peter’s career occurred in 1995 in the All Ireland senior final against Dublin. In that historic final, an equalising Tyrone point was ruled out of order, and despite scoring 11 points of Tyrone’s total of 12 points, Peter Canavan lost out.. by just one point. Despite the major setbacks, All Ireland victories in 2003 and again in 2005, were greeted by football fans all over Ireland, as wonderful recompense for one of Tyrone’s greatest ever football legends.
Scoring regularly is a huge asset and achieving high scores with clinical finishing, hallmarks a great player. In 1990 he scored 2-3 in an under 21 final v Kerry at Mullingar ,but the Kingdom took the laurels. Atonement for the 1990 eclipse by Kerry came the following year (1991) when Peter scored 2-5 at Newbridge, as Tyrone turned the tables on Kerry in the U21 final. That title was successfully defended in 1992, with Peter as captain for both victories.
Defeat of Cavan in the final of the League in 2002, with Peter now captain of the senior team, was followed up with retention of the league in 2003.Tyrone were now becoming a powerhouse at the top level of Gaelic Football, but winning Sam Maguire was the No.1 objective for Peter Canavan.
Qualification for the 2003 All Ireland final was tempered with the news, that Peter was suffering serious ankle problems as a legacy of a famous victory over Kerry in the semi final. Neighbours Armagh, reigning All Ireland Champions, would be waiting in the first ever final between two counties from the same province and especially from the six counties of Northern Ireland.
The Croke Park final of 2003 was notable as Peter put 5 points on the scoreboard from frees in the first half and also the fact that their inspirational captain was on the field. As the teams came back for the 2nd half, Tyrone fans saw no Peter Canavan on the field of play. A famous first ever All Ireland win is remembered for the re-emergence of Peter for the final ten minutes, thus lifting all the players and Tyrone fans.
In 2004 Tyrone bowed out to Mayo at the quarter final stage of the All Ireland and in 2005, with Peter at the ripe old age of 35, he continued with the county, and the O’Neill county dethroned the holders, Kerry, to win their 2nd All Ireland title 1-16 to 2-10. This was Peter’s final year of inter county with Tyrone. A career that blossomed from 1989 to 2005 certainly exited with the highest honour, a glorious All Ireland title against the old masters of Kerry.
With his club Errigal Ciarán, Peter Canavan won 6 county senior championship titles and 2 Ulster titles. His first foray into management was with Fermanagh for two years and then club management with Cavan Gaels. He won the Cavan senior football title in his maiden voyage.
Peter Canavan’s enrolement in our All Ireland Hall Of Fame ONLINE Gallery is an automatic incorporation amongst a historic collection of Ireland’s greatest sports legends.
Derry JF Doody