Wednesday 21 February 2018

Monaghan primed to seize second chance

Monaghan's Conor McManus. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Monaghan's Conor McManus. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile newsdesk

At last we got a game that lived up to its pre-match billing last Saturday, and the replay between Donegal and Monaghan promises to be just as compelling.

The cauldron that is Kingspan Breffni Park should be close to capacity for the second joust between these modern-day Ulster gladiators who served up a fine game last weekend. It turned into an absorbing duel with all the best in championship intensity, individual flair, and tactical warfare - rounded off by a dramatic injury-time finale.

The re-run of several intriguing sub-plots - on and off the field - should ensure another entertaining encounter and I feel the pendulum has swung in favour of Monaghan because Donegal will have left with more regrets having failed to close out the deal after taking the lead in the fifth minute of injury-time.

While Donegal talisman Michael Murphy is unlikely to miss as many scoreable frees this time, I believe Monaghan have more scope for improvement. I'd expect a young forward like Conor McCarthy to benefit from the drawn match; he showed up well for 50 minutes and should take heart from that. If he gets into the right places, he can ease the scoring burden on Conor McManus.

Malachy O'Rourke's men also have a distinct advantage when it comes to kick-outs - being able to vary it more and deliver long to Kieran Hughes if they want - and there's no cure in sight for the Donegal indiscipline disease which continues to see them give away too many frees in the wrong areas.

As for the other Ulster SFC semi-final replay, I'm sticking with Tyrone as I feel they have anther gear in them. After the drawn match, much was made about the full-back line not coping with high balls, but I felt Cavan did more damage when Cian Mackey and Martin O'Reilly ran at them.

It must be remembered that Tyrone held Cavan scoreless for roughly two 20-minute spells in both halves and if Mickey Harte gets his forwards to attack with more cohesiveness, it should be Tyrone with a few points to spare.

Irish Independent

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