Sport Gaelic Football

Friday 23 February 2018

Farney men still look good bet to reach final

Ryan McMenamin

First of all, I have to say that I'm glad that I'm retired from inter-county football when you saw the sweltering heat that both sides had to play in at Casement Park!

It was no surprise that Monaghan won. Malachy O'Rourke and Ryan Porter won't thank me for saying this but I have tipped them to reach the Ulster final and on yesterday's display I don't see anything to change that.

I know Ryan well as he has been with my club for a number of years and he leaves no stone unturned in preparing a team. Malachy has also played and managed at the highest level, and while they will know that they will have to improve on this showing, they will just be relieved to get over the finishing line.

Monaghan hit 17 wides and that is something that they will have to brush up on for the semi-final, but at least they are creating the chances. With players like Christopher McGuinness, Conor McManus and Paul Finlay in the forward line they will always have a chance against the top sides, and they had Tommy Freeman coming off the bench and scoring as well.

Those four would get on most sides in the country and on their day they will give any defence in Ulster their fill of it. I rate Finlay very highly and if he was a Tyrone man I have no doubt that he would have a couple of All Stars by now.

I thought that Neil McAdam's second yellow card was a harsh enough call by the referee but, as is so often the case, the team with the extra man didn't use it to their advantage.

Antrim had half an hour to really ask questions of Monaghan in the soaring heat and they were only two points down at that stage but they failed to do it. Any of the top sides would have exploited that but Antrim's failure to do so contributed to their downfall.

From a defender's point of view, I thought that the Monaghan half-back line of Vinny Corry, Darren Hughes and Dessie Mone were outstanding, particularly in the first half when they took the game to Antrim.

Kevin Niblock had a great chance right at the start to get a goal when he got on the end of a superb pass from Paddy Cunningham and if he had taken it who knows what would have happened?

Monaghan were expected to win and they played with that air of confidence that they have got since having a good league campaign. I always enjoyed playing in the championship against Monaghan as one thing was for sure you were always going to be in for a tough, physical battle.

They play the winners of next weekend's game between Fermanagh and Cavan and, regardless of who comes through that, I tip Monaghan to reach the final; the fact that it will be in Clones will make them even harder to beat.

For Antrim now it's the qualifiers and based on what we saw yesterday it's difficult to see them getting a decent run in them.

They certainly would need a favourable home draw to get them up and running again but they have serious work to do as they weren't as sharp as Monaghan and crucially they weren't as hungry as the visitors, which must be worrying for management and supporters.

Irish Independent

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