Thursday 17 October 2019

Nudie backs rising star O'Hanlon to lift Farney spirits

Stephen O’Hanlon. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Stephen O’Hanlon. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

After round one of the National League, where the five-in-a-row chasing Dublin were put to the sword, even the most pessimistic Monaghan supporter wouldn't have expected this.

In the four games since, they haven't managed to pick up a point, meaning they welcome local rivals Cavan to Clones tomorrow knowing that a defeat would almost certainly end their five-year stay in the top flight and send them tumbling down to Division Two.

And former star Eugene 'Nudie' Hughes admits the usually ultra-efficient Farney are struggling for traction just now.

"They are (struggling) and they probably will do for the next two games," said Hughes, who achieved the distinction of winning All Star awards at both corner back and corner forward.

Finished

"Cavan will be a nail-biting match on Saturday but I'd expect them to get through it. Looking at the team that finished against Kerry, all the older players were on the field. Cavan are rebuilding under Mickey Graham and they will come to Clones and not have any fears.

"The last couple of matches there was only a couple of points in it, so I was expecting a very tough match but Monaghan just about to shade it."

Apart from the spectre of relegation that looms over both sides, tomorrow's clash carries another piece of significance as the teams will meet again in the quarter-final of the Ulster championship.

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Given that reigning provincial champions Donegal and beaten All-Ireland finalists Tyrone are on the other side of the championship, both sides will recognise that they have a real chance of reaching a final.

If Monaghan do reach a final, Hughes expects the country to know a lot more about Stephen O'Hanlon.

The Carrickmacross man announced himself on the inter-county stage when bagging a brilliant goal against the Dubs, and Hughes insists there's a lot more to come from the talented basketball player who can take some of the scoring pressure off Conor McManus.

"I think Stephen O'Hanlon will come into his own after the League because we'll revert back into the old rules and I think he will make an awful difference.

"He has an eye for goal, great ball control, is two-footed and has great vision and he's another potential threat along with McManus."

And Hughes reckons the return of his namesake Kieran Hughes to the edge of the square will give the Farney a potent attack.

"If we can get our full-forward sorted and hopefully have Kieran Hughes back and in good form… He's had his injury, he is working on that and doing light training.

"That's the problem we have - (we need) a number 14 to bring those players in but O'Hanlon for the future? Yes. (Conor) McCarthy will benefit from O'Hanlon too because if O'Hanlon has one thing he has pace and he has an eye for goal. He is an unreal talent."

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