Tyrone loss leaves nagging questions, admits McManus
Conor McManus is hoping to avoid surgery on an ongoing hip injury that would potentially derail him at the peak of his career.
McManus has won a second All-Star in three years and is rightly regarded among the top three forwards in the game now. But beneath the veneer of the spectacular scores he produced all summer, two troublesome hips nag away at him and it's taking astute management from game to game and session to session to get him through.
McManus, selected for Ireland's international rules squad after picking up Irish 'man of the series' in Perth, had surgery in 2011 for much the same problem and felt it took him a full year to recover. At this stage of his career he's anxious not to take the surgical route.
"I had surgery on it before, at the end of 2011 and it took me until the middle of 2012 to get back from it. It's not the kind of operation where, when you get it done, that's you fixed.
"It's a slow one to come back from to really get up to peak performance. It took until 2013 when I really felt back to myself. I'm not really looking at taking that time out again," he said.
"There's a certain amount of rehab you have to do after it. So that's what I'm doing now, I'm doing the rehab and it's keeping me ticking over and hopefully that will avoid having to go for any further surgery. It's just something that's in your genes and playing a high level of sports triggers it. If you weren't playing at a high level or playing that often it wouldn't cause you that much trouble. It's just about managing it.
"There are times in training over the next 12 months where I'll have to step back and do rehab for a week or two and then get back into it. That's been the case for the last two years, Malachy (O'Rourke) and Ryan Porter have been excellent with me and very accommodating."
McManus admits his Monaghan team have been left with nagging questions after failing to deliver a performance against Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
It's disappointing the way we finished after winning the Ulster Championship. We had very much set our sights on progressing to an All-Ireland semi-final. We came up to Croke Park and we simply didn't perform and that's probably the most disappointing thing.
"If you gave it your best shot and you came up short by a point or two, you might say, 'Well, maybe we're not good enough'.
"But when you come up, don't perform and lose by three or four points, it just leaves question marks hanging over you. What you want to do is get back to work next year and try to put it right."
He dismisses any suggestion that Monaghan are having difficulty performing in Croke Park, pointing to this year's league semi-final against Dublin for evidence.
"The only people who make an issue out of that is the media. I think there is more made of that than what needs to be. The whole Croke Park thing, we came up and played Dublin in the league semi-final. We got beaten by a point and probably should have won. "
McManus is encouraged by the fact that none of their more senior players have, so far, opted to retire. Dick Clerkin has intimated in recent days that he is staying on.
McManus admitted it would have been a worry in the immediate aftermath of the Tyrone defeat but as captain he has spoken to every player and made his feelings clear.
"Anybody that maybe would have been thinking about maybe pulling the pin, I would have said, 'Look, don't make any decisions now, think about it, take Christmas and see'. From my point of view I might be captain of the team but them boys have been playing a lot longer than I have. All I can tell them is how I feel and how the rest of the panel would feel. I can't tell them boys what to do.
"They are playing long enough to know what's right for them and their families. They have to weigh everything up but hopefully when the decision is made it will be a good one for Monaghan."
McManus feels Ireland showed too much respect to Australia in Perth last year. "I think we were just a wee bit lacklustre. It's not that the Australians caught us by surprise but maybe they were better at the game than we gave them credit for."
"Physically, they are fairly imposing but once we got into them and into the mix, I think we showed that we were well able to compete with them and by the last quarter we were the team finishing the strongest and they were holding on. In terms of fitness and everything else, I don't see a massive difference."
But he still feels the hybrid game's principles should be to Ireland's advantage. "It's a basic catch-and-kick game and the skills of the game are rewarded. If a good kick-pass finds a man and you get your hands on the ball, you take your mark and it's free-taking after that really. So it's win-win for forwards."