This was a happy end to a tough season that he was utterly determined to cherish. It was the same feeling for the rest of the Chelsea captain’s team-mates. A feeling of joy, relief and probably vindication.
Only at Chelsea could it be like this. Antonio Conte, the manager who masterminded this victory over an uninspiring Manchester United, could be out of a job by lunchtime on Monday. That is the way it is at Stamford Bridge.
Cahill’s story epitomises this strange campaign. Sent off on the opening day of the season, his form dipped and he found himself dropped in January, missing big games against Barcelona and United. He was also axed by England.
But the 32-year-old fought his way back into the team, back into Gareth Southgate’s World Cup plans – and ended up winning the FA Cup.
“I wanted to remember the moment when I held up the cup,” said Cahill. “It is one of those things when you grow up as a kid, especially being English. You have to remember these moments.
“I said to the lads before we went out not to take anything for granted. Remember when you were just starting out. I felt we were ready. I felt good, that everyone else was feeling the same way.
“You take criticism and sometimes rightly so. We have fallen short this season. But you keep quiet. I had a feeling all week. I wanted this more than anything.
“This is a dream for me – but you reap your rewards. If you keep working hard, you have character. You keep quiet, take it on the chin. Keep plugging away.”
Eden Hazard’s penalty was the strike that lifted the trophy for the eighth time for Chelsea at Wembley, but it was Cahill and his defensive pals who really won it, as his side battened down, magnificently organised to withstand anything a worryingly blunt United could throw at them.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Cahill. “One, because it saves the season – because we tasted disappointment last year [against Arsenal in the final] – and because in 2012 I missed the final through injury.
“I felt the pressure. We had to win to save the season. But we have won a trophy this season – which some teams have not managed to do.
“I felt I put in a great performance, as did the rest of my team-mates. I would rather do my talking on the pitch.
“It was a strange game. We scored early and, when you are 1-0 up against Manchester United, you’re not going to gamble. The team were terrific defensively.”
And as for the manager? “You feel the sense of uncertainty in the last few months. I’m sure the manager will make the best decision for himself, I’m sure the club will make the best decision. You want the uncertainty put to bed.”
Conte, in what is almost certain to be his last match in charge at Chelsea, showed once again what a fine tactician he can be.
His team were superbly organised, thoroughly drilled. They did a job on Jose Mourinho and United. It was not pretty but it was horribly effective.
And it helped that his players were fired up for this last chance at silverware, especially Hazard. They have not always been lately. Early on Hazard skipped past Phil Jones and saw his shot saved by David De Gea’s legs.
Twenty minutes in came the key moment, as Cesc Fabregas’ lovely ball was missed by the hapless Jones. Hazard nipped inside and was away and the United defender could only fell him.
Hazard was coolness personified as he rolled in the penalty and United were on the back foot. They were restricted to pot shots as Chelsea manned the trenches, though Jones headed wide. But after the break Mourinho’s men improved.
Marcus Rashford saw his shot beaten away by Thibaut Courtois but then Marcos Alonso missed when he should have wrapped it up.
Courtois saved well as Rashford burst through, then saved from Nemanja Matic. But when Paul Pogba headed wide unmarked, United’s time had run out. They had simply not been good enough.
Conte swigged champagne, grinned, saluted the fans. He had his moment.