Vinnie Corey knew how difficult it would be to keep Monaghan in Division 1 before he became team manager.
He didn’t need fate to deal him a cruel hand as well.
Already without Conor McManus, the Hughes brothers, Ryan McAnespie and Niall Kearns – the latter pair will miss the entire season as they are taking a break in Australia – he lost two more players while fans were still streaming into Castleblaney Faughs for the clash against Armagh.
Fergal Kelly tweaked his hamstring in the warm-up and had to withdraw while prolific forward Jack McCarron pulled up in the game’s first play and had to be replaced.
“It is an unforgiving place Division 1,” said Corey, after their 1-14 to 1-12 defeat to Armagh. “When you are down a few players you are going to feel the pinch because you are up against the best teams. You can do without one or two but when you are down three or four it is going to be an uphill struggle.”
Despite their woes Monaghan settled quicker and were 0-5 to 0-3 up when a miscued re-start from Rory Beggan give Tiernan Kelly the opportunity to score an opportunistic goal. But Corey argued this wasn’t the turning point in an entertaining match.
“I think the damage was done straight after half-time, a mixture of maybe turning the ball over the middle and then being pressed hard on the kick out and losing them. All of a sudden Armagh reeled off six points. That was the turning point.
“Credit to our boys they battled well, got a hold of the game again. The penalty (Conor McCarthy converted after he was fouled by Armagh goalkeeper Ethan Rafferty) was a big help. We got it back to a one point and the game was really on.
“Unfortunately we missed a few chances in that period as well and listen Armagh had the fire power to keep us at arm’s length,” he acknowledged.
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney doesn’t do interviews after his team wins. Kerry native Kieran Donaghy was on media duties.
Rationalising Armagh’s sluggish first-half performance when they converted just a third of the chances they created he suggested league football is a lot more pressurised now compared to when he played.
“I think the games have taken on far more pressure and responsibility from when I was playing league football.
“Especially the first few games, you were just getting back on track. But league football is so competitive now, especially Division 1, that there’s pressure going into this game,” said Donaghy.
“Playing in Division 1 is about focussing on the here and now.” he added.
“You can’t look further past the next game, and that’s not a cliché, it’s a fact of life.
“We’ve Mayo next in the Athletic Grounds next Sunday with a new management team and a hungry group of players. So every week you’re prepping for the next team and focused on that.”
Monaghan face a long trip south to face All-Ireland champions Kerry in Killarney next Sunday.
“There is no reprieve. It is tough and we will be minus a few players again. We will just have to take the positives and travel light and get ready for a performance,” said Corey.