Monaghan need more goals to move to next level - Hughes
Monaghan need to create and take more goalscoring chances if they are to build on their two Ulster titles in the last three years, their three-time All-Star 'Nudie' Hughes believes.
Under Malachy O'Rourke Monaghan have established themselves as one of their province's top sides, contesting three successive Ulster finals against Donegal.
But Hughes fears that a dearth of goals could ultimately hinder them from taking the next step.
In all three All-Ireland quarter-finals that they have lost, to Tyrone in 2013 and 2015 and Dublin in 2014, they have failed to score a goal and have scored just 12, 11 and 14 points.
"They need to pose more of a goalscoring threat. It's rare that you'll get Monaghan scoring more than one goal in a game," said their three-time Ulster title winner.
"In the big games we're always good for that kind of score, 11, 12 up to 15 points. But against the better teams, we'll need more."
Under O'Rourke Monaghan have played 14 Championship games, winning 10, but have failed to score a goal in eight. Only once, against Kildare in a fourth-round Qualifier that went to extra-time, have they raised two green flags.
Those figures are reflected in their two Division 1 campaigns which have yielded goals in 10 of their 15 games but only once, against Roscommon in the opening game this year, have they scored two.
Their solid defensive structure has been lauded but the higher the altitude they have climbed the more the struggle for goals has become apparent.
Hughes says it's imperative that Conor McManus, whose 2-43 from the 6-83 they scored in their seven-match League programme was just under 50pc of their total, gets more support.
"You need other players coming in but I'm not sure are they there. I'd be hoping Conor McCarthy is given his chance," said Hughes. "He is ready in my opinion. He's worth going to see, he'll light up the place. I've never spoken about a player that way. It's just a matter of getting him tuned in.
"He's not been played, he's been held back but he's good enough and brave enough.
"The only weakness is if anything happens McManus, that's where Tyrone have a variation with four players who can score freely. We might be over reliant on McManus."
The former Castleblayney Faughs man believes Paul Finlay can play a big role.
"He's been flying for his club and I'd expect to see him in. I expect Monaghan will win but traditionally we have lost games against Down that we were favourites to win," said Hughes, who senses a sting in the Mourne men despite losing all seven League games.
"Monaghan struggled with them in the League, McManus was held well that day while Down's best performance was their last game against Mayo. But no one is talking about Monaghan in terms of Ulster. It's been all Tyrone."
A third Ulster title for this team would earn them the right to be called Monaghan's best, Hughes acknowledged, outstripping his own team of the 1980s that won a National League and two Ulster titles in a four-year stretch.
"They'll be the best when they do something the other team didn't do. They haven't done anything different to the previous team. But they are quite capable," he said.