Wednesday 18 September 2019

McManus: It was 'close your eyes and hope for best'

Monaghan's Conor McManus. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Monaghan's Conor McManus. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Conor McManus has been around long enough that maybe we should have expected that he'd pull a rabbit from the hat at some stage.

McManus had spent the opening 70 minutes of Monaghan's Ulster SFC on the fringes of things.

He'd had a hand in their goal but Tyrone would have been pleased about how they'd kept him out of the game.

Until that stage, the 30-year-old hadn't managed a shot on goal from play and it seemed speculation that he had carried a knock into the game looked to be ringing true.

But class usually finds a way and with the game tied on 65 minutes, McManus burst into life. It proved to be a game-winning intervention.

First, he landed a brilliant free from under the stand that launched a run of five unanswered points from Monaghan - which included what will surely be one of the points of the championship - as the Farney men took a deserved win.


McManus wheeled over towards the wrong side for a right-footed kicked and bent over a brilliant score from close to the touchline.

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"It was just 'close your eyes and hope for the best'," he said of his brilliant score.

Monaghan's senior contingent produced significant displays as the Farney ended Tyrone's hopes of a first three in a row in Ulster.

Vinny Corey (35) produced their only goal while Dessie Mone (33) also hit a vital point.

Operating at the highest level after 30 may be getting more and more difficult but McManus wasn't surprised that those veterans produced the goods on the big day.

"That is what you expect from your key players and from your senior players," McManus said.

"Coming down there to Omagh to play the back-to-back Ulster champions is never going to be easy.

"You expect that and some days it goes for you and others it doesn't. And if it is not going for you, there are men on the bench there who are able to come in and that is what having a panel is about."

Malachy O'Rourke got a significant impact off his bench with Conor McCarthy kicking a score while captain Colin Walshe managed the same.

Goalkeeper Rory Beggan also hit four crucial points from placed balls, perhaps benefiting from a midweek kicking session in Healy Park as Monaghan continued their good league form.

"Rory's performances over the last while speak for themselves," McManus said of his goalkeeper.

"He is getting the recognition he deserves but he would be the first to say that he has to refocus, get his head down and focus on the next game because teams will be targeting that.

"It is just a matter of trying to improve all the time and there are aspects of our game that we certainly need to improve on.

"It was probably a good game for the neutral and it is disappointing that these games are not being shown on TV for whatever reason but that has nothing to do with us.

"We can't control that. We just go out and perform to the best of our ability.

"We did make a lot of mistakes there, particularly in the first half we turned over the ball quite a bit so we have a lot to work on.

"We are just delighted to get through."

Almost as soon as the game was over, one bookmaker announced that it had moved the Farney men into odds-on to win in Ulster.

They will carry the tag of hot favourites against Fermanagh - who operated in Division 3 in the spring - in two weeks' time after the Ernemen's surprise victory over Armagh last Saturday night.

But Monaghan will be mindful of getting ahead of themselves after they were surprisingly chinned by Down in last year's Ulster semi-final.

"It is a first-round game in the Ulster championship and it is nothing more than that," McManus added.

"We had a tough six or seven weeks there where we had to get our head down.

"We said before the game; it is a first-round game and that is all it is.

"All we can do is get our heads down and focus on the next game and that is against Fermanagh who had a big win on Saturday night. We are well aware that we have a big challenge ahead of us."

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