"Whatever you're eating, half it and whatever you're training, double it" - How Cavanagh had to drastically change his diet for senior county football 1 year ago

"Whatever you're eating, half it and whatever you're training, double it" - How Cavanagh had to drastically change his diet for senior county football

I think we can all agree that crisp sandwiches are hugely underrated. However, they probably aren't the cornerstone of a typical inter-county GAA player.

In the latest episode of TG4's Loachra Gael series, Tyrone legend Sean Cavanagh is under the spotlight as they dissect his unbelievable career and the extraordinary lengths that he pushed his body through to play at the highest level.


You might be surprised to hear though, that one of the most shocking things about this episode was not Cavanagh's shaky relationship with Mickey Harte, nearly breaking his neck in a match and wanting to play on, or even the fact that he was disappointed with his Man of the Match performance in 2008 - it was his diet.

"In our house back then, Sean was affectionately known as 'Chunky Sean'," reveals his wife, Fionnuala Cavanagh. "In university, he would have been fond of a crisp sandwich."

It wasn't long until Sean became a specimen of athletic conditioning

We all let ourselves go a little in university, but then again most of us aren't one of the most promising prospects breaking onto the county the scene. Cue Damian Barton, former All-Ireland winner with Derry, and Cavanagh's coach at Jordanstown.

"I remember him coming up to me and saying: 'Whatever you're eating, could you please half it and whatever you're training, could you please double it?" recalled the three-time All-Ireland winner.

It wasn't just in his spare time that Cavanagh was satisfying his sweet tooth, as he would often go to sugary substances for his pre-workout meal.

Donal McAnallen, brother to Tyrone legend and Cavanagh's former teammate Cormac McAnallen, admitted that the young midfielder took full advantage of the carpool to training as an opportunity for snacking.


"He would get in the car armed with minerals and sweets, and then proceed to stuff himself. One night he was doing sprints with the team and he puked up all of the junk."

In his book 'Obsession' the five-time All-Star reflected on a special cocktail that was brewed through his own invention, when he initially got drafted into the Tyrone senior panel in 2001.

"Once I got the call-up to the senior squad, the coaches got to working on my physique. They prescribed these great big gulps of whey protein, stuff I found desperately hard to stomach.


"To make the shake less disgusting, I would throw a bottle of WKD into the sludgy gruel, mix it around, gulp it down and hit the town.

"No night out would be complete without an eventual pit-stop at McDonald's, around three or four in the morning. The next day, whatever time I rose, would start with a fry or a few sausage rolls. Over two months, I blew up like a sumo wrestler."

I think it goes without saying that as soon as Cavanagh sorted out his excessive diet, there was absolutely nothing to stop him from developing into one of the most successful, powerful and energetic midfielders to ever grace Croke Park.

From the shimmy-dummy, leaving defenders on the floor without touching them, to bulldozing through some of the hardest men in the game with sheer speed and power, Cavanagh could and did, do it all.

For those whose aspirations are a little less ambitious than the Tyrone titan, maybe a WKD protein shake is the perfect addition to sustaining a balanced diet?