Monday 23 April 2018

Determined Conor McManus goes distance to take on Tyrone

Monaghan star has tried cryotherapy, Sean Boylan's herbal drinks and a faith healer in a bid to be fit for action

Monaghan's Conor McManus. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Monaghan's Conor McManus. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

He has sat in the oxygen chamber in Newry, heard his teeth chatter in a cryotherapy unit in Wexford, gulped down some of Sean Boylan's finest herbal drinks in Dunboyne and has visited a faith healer in a part of Donegal that he can't even recount the location of.

For Conor McManus there has been no limit to where he has gone and what he has been prepared to do since tearing ankle and knee ligaments in a club match on the May bank holiday weekend.

Even if it forces him out of Monaghan's Ulster quarter-final against Tyrone in Clones on Sunday – and that's a distinct probability – McManus is still prepared to deem his efforts a success.

"It was just a matter of trying anything that I could to get it going in the right direction. So, in that regard, something is already working. I have avoided surgery and that's what I wanted to do, because if I didn't do that, my summer was over," he said.

"A lot of those things you probably can't see much benefit in immediately, but something must be happening somewhere along the line. From my point of view, it was very hard to see whether I was getting anything right.

"I was maybe a wee bit nervous going up to the specialist in Santry (on Tuesday of last week to hear that he wouldn't require surgery). I just didn't know."

Without McManus – such a prolific force when he won his first All Star in 2013 – Monaghan's prospects of retaining their provincial title are badly dented.

They have beaten every other Ulster county since they re-emerged as a force under Seamus McEnaney just under a decade ago – but not Tyrone.

No current member of the Monaghan squad – with the exception of one of last year's minor stars Ryan McAnespie who has been included – has enjoyed a championship victory over their neighbours to the north at any level.

Not since the Ulster final in 1988 have Monaghan beaten Tyrone at senior championship level and in the intervening 26 years they have lost all four matches to them. Beating Tyrone for emotive reasons is something that will not be entertained by the players, insisted McManus.

"It's no secret that Tyrone have had the upper hand on us over the last eight to 10 years. Even the last time Monaghan beat them, you have to go back to that 1988 Ulster final," he said.

"Our minors and U-21s would have lost a fair bit to Tyrone over the years. I'm sure our record would have been a whole lot healthier but for them.

"You are dealing with one of the best teams that have ever come out of the province. They were a very talented team and even last year they had guys with three All-Irelands in their team. It was always going to be tough to turn them over."

McManus described the 2010 Ulster final as the hardest of all the defeats he has suffered to Tyrone or anyone else.

"The way we had gone into that game, we had two fairly convincing wins in the championship before that, I think we had beaten Armagh and Fermanagh," he said.

"Maybe we were going into that game as favourites and we probably went in naively, but we never turned up at all. Tyrone were actually underdogs. It sounds strange. Maybe we fell into the hype too much." Their Division 2 league success has at least shaken off any perception that their 2013 achievements were in isolation.

"At the start of the year we didn't want to be branded as a one-trick pony. We wanted to first and foremost consolidate our Division 2 status and we did that after a couple of games," he said.

"Then it was a case of looking up and trying to press on and we did that – we got promoted. So I think we have carried ourselves fairly well."

McManus has established himself as one of the primary forwards in Gaelic football, but significantly he was still being used as a half-back up until 2009, featuring in the position in the Ulster championship defeat to Derry of that year.

And his conversion to such a prolific attacking force dismisses the perception that good forwards cannot be manufactured.

"When I came into the squad, for the first couple of years I was playing wing-back. I had played there with my club early on in my career so, from that point of view, I have developed," he said.

"I played most of my early days between wing-forward and wing- back, then in 2009 I went into the full-forward line with my club and I haven't been moved out of there since."

Irish Independent

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