Five reasons why Monaghan could shock Dublin this weekend
Priced at 20/1 on to defeat Monaghan this weekend, few people expect the reigning All-Ireland champions to exit the championship at the quarter-final stage. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the underdogs.
Not abundantly evident against Kildare last time out after conceding 2-10 by time the referee blew for the end of 70 minutes, Monaghan have implemented a defensive structure which has been the envy of many.
Sweepers and blanket defences are the norm at inter-county level, but few utilise it as well as the 2013 Ulster champions. Donegal lead the way with their All-Ireland success and Monaghan have followed suit.
They conceded 14 scores against Tyrone and Armagh twice, before shipping 15 against Donegal in their provincial defeat. Dublin will be easily their most difficult assignment to date and while many are predicting an intriguing Dublin/Donegal semi-final, Malachy O’Rourke’s side may also give the men from the capital a stern test of their credentials.
To stand any chance of progressing, Monaghan will need Conor McManus to be at the top of his game to punish any Dublin lapses. He has been more selfless this season, but may need to chip in more from play if his side are to cause a shock.
He managed just one point against Donegal and all five of his points against Kildare were from frees. If given enough ball, a major if against Saturday’s opponents, he has the ability to cause serious damage and played a crucial role in their comeback against Kildare.
Dublin's defensive frailties?
Given their sheer dominance in games, it is an obvious point that the defence has yet to be tested for an entire game. Cork in the first half of the National League semi-final and Laois for a similar period in Leinster have shown that the Dublin defence is far from impenetrable.
Paul Finlay had his shooting boots on last week on Jones Road, while Stephen Gollogly bagged 1-03 after his introduction at half-time. Should Kieran Hughes escape disciplinary action for an incident with Kildare’s Niall Kelly as expected, then the Monaghan attack may pose more questions for the blue rear-guard.
While there is plenty of firepower on the Dublin bench in the forward division, the riches are not so plentiful should injuries or loss of form affect their defenders.
Last weekend the Farney men were the only beaten provincial finalists to advance in the 2014 championship, an indicator of the difficulties in regrouping after such a disappointment, with the Ulster side demonstrating their team spirit and never-say-die attitude on a number of occasions during the monsoon last Saturday.
Two goals from Emmett Bolton could have signalled the end of their challenge in the first half and again at the end of normal time they engineered a final play to grab an equalising score.
Their resilience is likely to be tested to the limit by Jim Gavin’s all-conquering side, but don’t expect the Monaghan team to roll over and have their bellies tickled.
The saying goes that you create your own luck, so Monaghan may well need to be at their creative best to book an all-Ulster semi-final with Donegal or Armagh.
Dublin have been guilty of being wasteful in front of goals and this is essential for any hope of an upset. Injuries, red cards and loss of form could be factors, while the game could even hinge on a refereeing decision.
Monaghan supporters may be travelling in hope rather than expectation, but stranger things have happened.