Walshe hails O'Rourke impact as Farney return to top table
SINCE Colin Walshe forced his way into the Monaghan set-up, he has known almost nothing but change – change in both management and change in Monaghan's status in football's hierarchy.
His debut in 2010 came under Seamus McEnaney – he played as they recorded a league win over Tyrone but later that year he lost an Ulster final to the same opposition. At the time, Monaghan were used to such exalted company.
But two managers and two relegations later, Monaghan's standing has dropped dramatically from the days when the sight of their name would make even the best teams in the country shift uncomfortably in their seat.
"In the four years I have been here, we have had three different managerial set-ups," Walshe recalls. "There's been a lot of change and not an awful lot of time to settle."
However, new manager Malachy O'Rourke's has continued his habit of making instant impacts.
He guided Monaghan club Tyholland to an intermediate championship in 2001, and the following year he brought Derry's The Loup to the SFC final before returning 12 months later to collect a first title in 63 years. That winter, they battled to an Ulster club title, inflicting a rare defeat on Crossmaglen along the way.
In 2006 and '07 he won more county titles, this time in Tyrone with Errigal Chiarain and Cavan with Cavan Gaels before he graduated to inter-county management and was handed the reins of his native Fermanagh for 2008.
Later that summer he had the Erne men in a first Ulster final since 1982; only a replay would see Armagh past O'Rourke's men.
At Monaghan, he has had much the same effect. After those successive relegations, he brought promotion and Division 3 silverware. The draw in Ulster was kind, but wins over Antrim and Cavan produced a return to Clones on Ulster final day and a second bite at the cherry for Walshe.
"The set-up that Malachy has brought to the table is top-notch – with Leo McBride and Ryan Porter, they all have their own parts of the game they bring," he says.
"Malachy himself, Finbarr Fitzpatrick from Latton, they have all brought something to the set-up this year and it is working for us."
Often charged with a man-marking job on the opposition's danger man, the Doohamlet man's stock is rising rapidly.
DIT saw enough in him to name him captain of their star-studded Sigerson cup team.
Walshe skippered a side that included Mayo's Aidan O'Shea and Darran O'Sullivan of Kerry and led the college to their first Sigerson title. And in doing so he became only the third Monaghan man to life that cup after Mick O'Gorman (1931/32) and Paddy Kerr (1973/74).
"College football is great for mixing with players all over the country. You are coming up against top players and you are getting to know them, as well as getting to know their game as well as players in your own county."
The build-up to tomorrow's Ulster final could hardly have been any different to 2010, when a hammering of Armagh and a win over Fermanagh had the county convinced they could topple Tyrone.
"The hype going round the team at that time, we were being tipped to take them," Walshe recalls.
"We probably started to believe it ourselves and then Tyrone came out with all guns blazing and took us apart. It's definitely something we didn't cope well with at the time.
"This year has been a totally different scenario. We've beat Cavan and Antrim and they haven't been high-scoring games, we haven't blitzed any teams, just got over the line in both games. The hype isn't there as a result – we feel we haven't performed as well as we can."