Young guns can help Monaghan take next step, insists upbeat Mone
Monaghan's interest in the McKenna Cup may be over but veteran defender Dessie Mone is hopeful they have added to their panel as they look to advance beyond the All-Ireland quarter-final stage this summer, writes Donnchadh Boyle.
Malachy O'Rourke's side have established themselves as one of the most competitive teams around and secured two Ulster titles in the last three years.
However, they have fallen at the last-eight stage in each of the last three campaigns when going down to Tyrone (twice) and Dublin.
Monaghan have lost the influential Owen Lennon to retirement and Dick Clerkin - the country's longest-serving footballer - has yet to return to the panel but Mone believes Monaghan boast some promising emerging talent.
"It gives other boys the opportunity to prove themselves to Malachy," Mone commented.
"We can't always be relying on the same boys. That was a good thing that Mark (Thornton) came in from Rockcorry and I thought he had a great game. He didn't look out of place whatsoever - he was catching balls over his head, he was holding his own, which is great to see," said Mone who also picked out full-forwards Barry McGinn and Fergal McGeough for special praise.
Monaghan take on neighbours Cavan tomorrow night in what will be their last competitive outing before starting their Division 1 campaign away to Roscommon on January 31. "We've another game against Cavan on Wednesday night, it's another local derby, as Armagh was, so it'll stand to us as well.
"Even if we win it that's not going to get us through but it's about opening up your legs, getting more boys in, getting more game-time in. Those are the big things in January because the league is only three weeks away now."
And the Clontibret man in hopeful that Monaghan have learned from their recent exits at the last-eight stage.
"We just haven't made that mark yet, getting past the quarter-finals. But hopefully we've learnt from the last three years - it is a massive learning curve, winning Ulster titles and then trying to break past the quarter-finals."