Friday 23 August 2019

'This is not the weekend for Tyrone to be beating the Dubs' - McManus warns Red Hand to hold off poking the bear until knockout stages


Farney army: Conor McManus insists that departed manager Malachy O’Rourke will remain a friend to all the players. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Farney army: Conor McManus insists that departed manager Malachy O’Rourke will remain a friend to all the players. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Monaghan's three-time All-Star, Conor McManus, feels Tyrone are the biggest threat to Dublin's five-in-row bid, but he's convinced that this weekend is not the time to beat them.

Dublin visit Tyrone for the second successive championship on Sunday and with both counties already through to the All-Ireland semi-finals, only the identity of both teams' opponents and the date of that semi-final is at stake.

Of course, Dublin's near five-year unbeaten streak, incorporating 33 games now, is also on the table, but McManus feels that it won't serve Tyrone's overall ambitions well if they poke the bear too fiercely on Sunday.

"Probably this weekend isn't the time to beat Dublin," he said. "If Dublin were to lose a game, if they are to lose their unbeaten record, this is the weekend for them to do it. But nobody's going to read a whole pile into it. This is the weekend for them to lose, if that's what they're thinking.

"From a Tyrone point of view, or for anyone else playing Dublin, the time to beat them is in an All-Ireland semi-final or final."

The 31-year-old reckons Tyrone's capacity to absorb lessons from defeat over many years make them the biggest challengers.

"Any time Tyrone are beaten, they've always come back and been strong the second time out. Take last year when we played them in the first round of the Ulster championship, they would have learned a fair bit from that game.

"And in the All-Ireland final, they were beaten, but they would have learned from that and deep down they'll be hoping that they get Dublin again in a knock-out game.

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"They would have learned from last year when they went 0-5 to 0-1 up in the All-Ireland final and they didn't play as they needed to that particular day. They probably sat back a bit on that occasion and allowed Dublin to take the game to them.

"They are probably in a stronger position now in that they have a stronger presence inside than they did in last year's final, and they can go that longer route with the ball."

Tyrone are unlikely to risk Peter Harte, who is currently on two black cards having had one, against Longford, rescinded, while Colm Cavanagh may also sit this one out.

Monaghan beat Dublin in the first round of the league in January, one of three defeats the champions suffered, but McManus is sure the league was never their priority.

"Without being overly obvious about it, Dublin had probably nothing to be gained while winning another league title this year.

"Every other year they have gone out to win everything in front of them, but like every other team, them guys are on the bounce a long time. They are going for their fifth All-Ireland in a row and it's incredible consistency. The way they've been able to maintain that hunger and desire year-in year-out has been unbelievable, so it only made sense that they wouldn't go all out in the league, particularly this year with all the focus on them for five-in-a-row.

"If ever there was a year not to go all-out for the league, this was it and it seems to have put them in good stead."

McManus feels there is no one way to beat Dublin and that opponents must strike the right balance.

"I don't think you can go out and play them man-to-man, toe-to-toe for 70 minutes. You might have to pick your stages as to when you attack them and when to try and keep it tight."

Meanwhile, McManus feels there is plenty left in the Monaghan squad, which should make them an attractive proposition to manage.

Former Armagh footballer and Mayo coach Tony McEntee, former Cavan manager Mattie McGleenan and former Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney are the names currently before a committee charged with finding a replacement for Malachy O'Rourke, who stepped down after their qualifier loss to Armagh in June, having spent seven years in the job. McEnaney's business commitments may, however, rule him out.

McManus, who paid tribute to O'Rourke and said he would always remain a friend to all the players, says he has heard talk of Monaghan's demise plenty of times in the past.

"The same thing would have been said after 2010 when we didn't make the breakthrough back then, so throughout your Monaghan career, you have always heard 'they're going to go away and now, slide off, disappear into the sunset.'

"It has never been like that so I don't see why we would subscribe to that ourselves now.

"We're not going to be losing a huge number of players. Our older lads - myself, Drew Wylie and Darren Hughes - are over 30 now but after that it's a good mix and I'd be hopeful that we can get a good pre-season under our belts and try and hit the ground running again. But we'll be as competitive as ever we were."

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