Monday 20 August 2018

Dick Clerkin: Malachy O'Rourke must change before his Monaghan legacy is tarnished further

Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke shakes-hands with Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher. Photo: Sportsfile
Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke shakes-hands with Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher. Photo: Sportsfile

Dick Clerkin

'Daddy why are we walking so fast' uttered my eldest son Cailean, as we scurried out of Healy Park leaving the rapturous Fermanagh supporters enjoy their deserved moment of glory in the sunshine.

Daddy wasn't in the humour for much talking, after watching what will surely go down as Monaghan's worst performance in Malachy O'Rourke's tenure, if not beyond that again.

Nobody predicted a classic, even if the football-starved armchair supporters hoped for one, in what was one of the few televised games this summer. Montrose must be cursing their luck. The game was woeful, only saved from eternal damnation by the dramatic climax that handed Rory Gallagher's team a memorable victory.

In a post-match interview, Malachy was visibly shaken, and struggled for words after what had just transpired.

His claim that Eoin Donnelly's injury time goal was a 'Sucker Punch' discredits the fact that, if he was being honest, Fermanagh were worthy of their victory.

Fermanagh led for most of the game, and seemed better prepared for a contest few gave them any chance of winning. Fermanagh dominated the majority of their own contested kick-outs, whilst Monaghan continually avoided the quickest route to goal, opting for short kick-outs all day.

Aggression

It was as if Monaghan felt they didn't need to get down and dirty to get a result yesterday. Any aggression came from the men in green jerseys.

Malachy, not for the first time, opted for a style of play that keeps teams, well below them in overall standings, in with a fighters chances.

Rory Gallagher didn't hit Malachy with a 'Sucker Punch' as such; in what was a slugfest he simply got the telling blow in just before the final bell.

A few weeks back, amidst the excitement following Monaghan's victory over Tyrone, I wrote about the need for some stern analysis in relation to the major deficiencies in Monaghan's style of play.

Regrettably it never came, and the 'small county big heart' bandwagon continued to gather momentum. It fed into the folly that you can somehow continue to win games relying on your goalkeeper hitting mesmeric frees, and your All Star forward only having to play for ten minutes. You can't.

Short, lateral and regrettably predictable is how you could sum up Monaghan's overall performance yesterday.

Predictable in such a damaging way, that Gallagher had his team set-up perfectly, and from early on you got the sense this was going to be a close, turgid affair. Going into the game Rory would have gladly taken a stop-start two point game going down the final stretch, knowing in such circumstances anything is possible. Monaghan should never have allowed that to happen.

In 2013 when we won the Ulster final, defeating All Ireland champions Donegal, a feature of that game was Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus making hay as we peppered them with long ball all afternoon.

How far away that type of approach feels now. At some stage over the last few years, Malachy and his management team have obviously decided that avoiding kicking the ball into McManus, and whoever else has been unlucky enough to find themselves beside him, is a tactic worth pursuing.

Before his legacy is further tarnished after yesterday's showing, it is time to go back to the drawing board.

Or at least just dust down an old one! When your full-back is your top scorer from play, surely it is time to admit something is badly amiss!

I have no doubt there was Monaghan people cursing me after writing Monaghan up as potential All Ireland contenders after beating Tyrone.

That possibly fed the complacency that 'cursed' through the Monaghan player's veins yesterday. My optimism was conditional however.

Conditional on Monaghan playing a far more expansive brand of football, and making better use of their undoubted scoring talent.

Regrettably yesterday, Monaghan were yet again unable to think for themselves, beyond their workmanlike confines.

Just look at the tallies Kerry and Galway put up yesterday, against teams of a similar disposition to Fermanagh.

The difference? Galway and Kerry have Sam in their sights, but more importantly, both teams are acutely aware of the style of football they must endeavour to play to rightly belong in that conversation.

As a result they put their games beyond doubt well ahead of that dangerous last quarter.

Based on yesterday's performance, Malachy is unfortunately still reluctant to think along similar lines, and so Monaghan will have to meekly slip back out of that same discussion, until they can prove otherwise.

Fortunately for Cailean though, Daddy's mood had tempered somewhat before we reached home, and we stopped for a badly needed ice cream after a sweltering day on the terrace.

Like many disappointed Monaghan supporters yesterday, a 99 would turn out to be the only highlight of the day.

Irish Independent

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