Saturday 18 November 2017

Peter Canavan: Malachy O'Rourke's mind games can help overcome Donegal - his pre-match lies spurred me on!

Vinny Corey will have a key role to play for Monaghan in defence
Vinny Corey will have a key role to play for Monaghan in defence
Michael Murphy, Donegal
Donegal's Odhran MacNiallais
Dick Clerkin, Monaghan
Owen Duffy, Monaghan

Peter Canavan

An intriguing factor of this Ulster final is how two Fermanagh men are going to decide where the Anglo Celt Cup resides over the winter.

You cannot play down the role that Malachy O'Rourke and Rory Gallagher will have in deciding the outcome of Monaghan and Donegal's meeting.

These sides have reached the final for three consecutive years; this 'series' is tied at one-each and there is a real sense of bad blood between the sides. I am relishing it.

I have never worked with Rory Gallagher, but I admire how he has handled this Donegal team since taking over from Jim McGuinness, keeping a lot of veterans on board.

His foresight has also been rewarded by the late return of Leo McLoone, who should see action tomorrow.

Malachy O'Rourke is much more familiar to me. I played with him for St Mary's and Errigal Ciaran when he transferred from his club Derrylin O'Connell's in Fermanagh, having married and settled in Ballygawley.

I will never forget on the eve of my first Sigerson Cup match with St Mary's College, Malachy and another senior player took me aside and revealed that they met my direct opponent on the opposition during a night out, who had a few choice comments to make about myself.

Not that I thought I needed firing up, but this gave me another reason to win the game.


Win it we did, with me playing my part, and I let my marker know about it at the final whistle. His confused look should have told me something, but a week later, O'Rourke informed me he had manufactured the whole story.

You could say that Malachy has been at his mind-games for quite a while.

As a team-mate, Malachy was hard-working, honest and would put in a shift when required. He had good feet too and could finish.

But while he took frees for his county, there was a queue of men in front of him at Errigal; at one stage there was Eamonn McCaffrey, Eoin Gormley and myself. Malachy was lucky to get hitting a sideline ball!

He expertly managed us to the Tyrone county championship in 2006, along with his right-hand man, Leo 'Dropsy' McBride.

Malachy had a serious eye for detail and had already earned his stripes by managing the Loup to the 2003 Ulster club title.

His team meetings were always interesting, everything covered down to a picture of the pitch we were playing on and the referee, and his famed weather reports left nobody with poor excuses for the wrong kind of footwear or not bringing gloves.

Some managers get carried away with emotion when it comes to Championship football, feeling that shouting and roaring is the best form of communication. That was never Malachy's style. Everything is measured - you never see him flustered or losing control of himself.

Malachy has always given immense credit to McBride in all their successes. Like Malachy, 'Dropsy' played for Errigal and fancied himself as a corner-forward, but he earned his nickname after a short stint as goalkeeper that didn't turn out well.

He is not as reserved as Malachy, but he brought great intensity to his coaching sessions. His enthusiasm was infectious and the players had great respect for him.

I said at the start of the year that I expect Monaghan will become Ulster champions, with their route to the final offering an opportunity to get there without having to show everything they had.

On the other hand, Donegal had their work cut out.

They played very well against Armagh and Tyrone. Against Derry there were signs of fatigue, mental tiredness or maybe a combination of both. Perhaps motivation was an issue. It won't be in the final.

I expect Monaghan to get their match-ups right. Vinny Corey has already shown what he can do on Michael Murphy.

Paddy McBrearty, Colm McFadden and Ryan McHugh are the most important men to watch after that. Colin Walshe now should be recovered from injury and he is a big game player. He should go on McBrearty, as he did in the 2013 final.

If Drew Wylie is fit to start, then he takes up his role on McFadden, having tortured him in 2013. If he doesn't, then Fintan Kelly has the physique for the job.

Karl O'Connell has the pace to track Ryan McHugh. Monaghan have the men to shut down Donegal's main attacking threats.

Monaghan will have enough bodies back within their own '45', forcing the likes of Frank McGlynn, Neil Gallagher and Ryan McHugh to attempt shots from distance.

On the other hand, Dessie Mone can kick the ball over from distance; Darren Hughes, Paul Finlay, Kieran Hughes, Dick Clerkin and Neil McAdam have also been known to do it.

Another factor is the bench. Monaghan's replacements have produced nine points in the Championship from two games. Donegal's subs have yet to score from three.

Monaghan have targeted this game from away back. Proof of that is to look at their team against Fermanagh, they didn't need to be starting Eoin Lennon and they had other options there.

Off the Pace

Lennon looked off the pace against Fermanagh, but Malachy played him with one eye on Neil Gallagher, to quell his domination in midfield.

While Monaghan can win Ulster, I am not convinced they see themselves as All-Ireland contenders.

If it was Tyrone and Donegal in an Ulster final, they would both see themselves as All-Ireland contenders.

To join that group, they have to improve the attacking aspect of their game. Perhaps that will come, but they should have enough this weekend in any event.

Meanwhile, I expect to see fireworks in Thurles, where Tipperary will be looking for revenge after the All-Ireland U-21 final defeat to Tyrone.

Tipp manager Peter Creedon was a member of the U-21 management that refused Tyrone manager Feargal Logan the chance to commiserate with the Tipp players after that final.

Tipp will be looking to Colin O'Riordan for inspiration, but playing in their U-21 hurling defeat to Limerick on Thursday was hardly ideal preparation.

I feel that Tyrone will be able to concentrate more on the football and the job at hand

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