Monday 20 November 2017

Monaghan just haven't got Ulster title in them

Ryan McMenamin

The way Monaghan and Cavan had played in the previous rounds suggested Saturday's Ulster SFC semi-final was going to be a real defensive battle but, while both teams went with a sweeper, there was more attacking football on display than I anticipated.

While the quality may not have been the greatest, the closeness of the battle kept everyone on the edge of their seats.

The Cavan half-back line in the first half were superb and if Cavan had taken their chances they possibly could have pushed on and recorded a comfortable win.

It was an awful mistake from Cavan 'keeper Conor Gilsenan to gift Christopher McGuinness a goal and that score proved to be the difference in the end.

Martin Dunne and Eugene Keating didn't get the same supply of ball they had thrived on in earlier rounds for Cavan and Colin Walshe's display in particular went a long way to gaining the win for Monaghan.

He man-marked Dunne and the Cavan dangerman was taken off.

The performance of the Hughes brothers Kieran and Darren was also key to Monaghan's victory. Their direct running caused Cavan problems.

When the game was in the mixer, Monaghan's experience came to the fore and the fact they were able to introduce boys like Paul Finlay and Dick Clerkin off the bench gave them a massive boost.

When Finlay got on the ball he settled them down and his two frees were crucial. Dick came on and used all his experience as he got involved in a few wee scuffles with Cavan, who showed their naivety by falling for it.

This defeat will be a blow for Cavan but they have a young squad and if they can keep them together I have no doubt that they will be a force in Ulster. They will learn a lot from this defeat, but to be honest I can't see them doing anything in the qualifiers this season.

I said at the outset of the championship Monaghan would reach the final and, while they will go in as massive underdogs, it's a position Malachy O'Rourke and his management team will relish.

They haven't won an Ulster title in 25 years and this could be the last chance for boys like Clerkin, Finlay and Dessie Mone.

They will try and emulate what Down did against Donegal and they will feel that they have better forwards than Down, but I still believe it won't be enough.

Irish Independent

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