Saturday 1 October 2016

We could have thrown in towel but they just kept working – O'Rourke

Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke celebrates with Darren Hughes after their All-Ireland qualifier victory over Kildare at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke celebrates with Darren Hughes after their All-Ireland qualifier victory over Kildare at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Bundles of sandbags lay at the foot of the dressing-room doors.

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If you were looking for a metaphor for what Monaghan and Kildare went through on Saturday night, you couldn't have found a more apt one.

Flood warnings had prompted emergency measures at HQ and they conjured images of men fighting to the death in muddied trenches, which, in sporting and climatic terms, was exactly what transpired.

Eoghan O'Flaherty emerged past them, ashen-faced, revealing how he thought his 70th-minute boomer had got Kildare across the line.

All the colour had also drained from Jason Ryan's face.

The Kildare manager is usually indefatigably positive, but, for once, all the fizz was gone out of him.

Without the benefit of action replay, he felt Emmet Bolton's black card and the free for Conor McManus' equaliser were harsh yet admitted, balefully, "every free that we concede, I never think it's a free, so I'm biased.

"The referee has the best view, he's closest to it, but, at such a late stage in the game for it to happen, it's really, really tough."

Clearly proud of the way his side had defied the pre-match odds, Ryan was equally frustrated at their profligacy in the last five minutes of proper time.

"Having ourselves in a position to get over the line (so many times) is so disappointing," he lamented.

What did he say to his troops afterwards?

"The big thing was thanking them for their efforts. In this country players playing an amateur sport deserve huge credit. There's no player, for any county team, who goes out not to perform."

A man whose teams have become a byword for refusing to die in the heat of battle is Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke, who was particularly thrilled with top-scorer Chrissy McGuinness.

"We have seen that all the time in training, but, when we started him in matches, he didn't get into the game and was a wee bit frustrated himself.

"With the spaces out here, we just felt if we could get good ball in to him, he could do damage.

"There were different times we could have thrown in the towel and accepted it wasn't our day, but they just kept working and playing for each other, playing as a team, and, as the game went into extra-time, we got stronger."

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Asked if he thought Ryan's comments last week about McManus' ability to win a lot of frees had influenced the referee, O'Rourke said. "Not really. We were just disappointed that he chose a public forum to do that.

"Conor is a marquee forward for us, he takes on men, there's going to be a lot of contact and we feel he doesn't (sometimes) get the frees he warrants," he said.

"If someone is coming out and saying something like that, it possibly will influence a referee and work against him, but I don't think it did," he added.

Faced with a tough seven-day turnaround before meeting the All-Ireland champions he said, "that's where we want to be. There's no point crying about the opposition now, we just have to face up to it and work as hard as we can," he added.

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