McManus backs Farney to take two points of 'best team in land'
Published 27/02/2016 | 02:30
How do Monaghan solve the Dublin conundrum? Three times in the last two years the Farney Army under the guidance of Malachy O'Rourke has gone into battle against Jim Gavin's shock troops and emerged defeated and despondent.
Tonight at Croke Park, Monaghan bring their hopes, their plans and tactics to GAA headquarters in the latest bid to finally get one over the city slickers.
It is a tall order, but perhaps not quite a mission impossible.
The hallmark of Monaghan since O'Rourke took over in September 2012 has been a steady progression from the rock bottom of relegation to Division 3 that year, through two successive promotions, three Ulster final appearances, and two provincial triumphs.
Team captain Conor McManus acknowledges the upward trend of Monaghan's graph in the last few years, and after two victories in their opening League games, is ready for the challenge facing the All-Ireland champions in Croke Park.
"When you're playing the best teams in the country and you're playing them year in, year out, you're going to learn.
"Since we started our journey with Malachy in 2013, we have been progressing steadily, but we're not by any means close to where we want to be," said McManus.
The Monaghan talisman has no illusions about the relevance of the games away to Roscommon and at home to Down, but the four points gained was a welcome early boost to the campaign.
"We went down to Roscommon and came away with a narrow victory. The following week we had another narrow victory against Down in Clones. Meanwhile Roscommon went down and beat Kerry in Kerry, so there's nothing easy in this division," said McManus.
The recent history against Dublin is not hugely encouraging for the visitors.
Monaghan came with vim and vigour into the 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final, threw up a massive defensive screen and still got hammered by 17 points.
Last April the Dubs rocked up to Clones and in front of almost 11,000 spectators, scorched the Farney men by 11 points in the last match of the regular League series.
A week later, on April 12, the result was much closer as Monaghan ran the Dubs to a one-point margin - and that after four days in Portugal on a training camp.
"There's no doubting that Dublin are the best team in the country," said McManus.
"They're All-Ireland champions and League champions, but we're not looking at it in any other light other than it's two points up for grabs and we want them."