Tuesday 25 June 2019

'If they do get back there they'll be gassed'- Monaghan facing gruelling road back to the Super 8's

Padraig Faulkner dives in to block Conor McManus during the Ulster SFC quarter-final in Kingspan Breffni Park. Photo: Daire Brennan
Padraig Faulkner dives in to block Conor McManus during the Ulster SFC quarter-final in Kingspan Breffni Park. Photo: Daire Brennan

John Morley

Monaghan crashed out of the Ulster championship as big favourites for the third season in-a-row and are now facing a daunting journey to get back into the Super 8's.

Last Saturday's Ulster quarter-final loss to Cavan is the third straight year that Malachy O'Rourke's men have been upset in the provincial series after defeats to Fermanagh (2018) and Down (2017).

The road back to the last four will mean that Monaghan will have to play eight games in ten weeks if they are to match the heights of last year between qualifier games and Super 8's ties.

Herald GAA reporter Conor McKeon is skeptical of a way back for Monaghan this season, highlighting the easy road they had last year to the last four as a big reason they were able to rebound from the Fermanagh defeat.

"I know they had that brilliant performance against Kerry and they beat Galway obviously in the Super 8's, but if you looked at their draw last year they got two or three division four teams at the very start," said McKeon on The Throw-In podcast, in association with Bord Gáis Energy.

McKeon was unconvinced about whether the Farney men have pushed on from last year, predicting that Malachy O'Rourke's men will meet their demise at the hands of a more energetic top eight team.

"They got an easy route back to relevance last year and if they got one again, are there seven better teams than Monaghan in the country? If there are there's only seven or eight, so they could definitely pick their way through it, but my worry is that if they do get back there they'll be gassed.

"They'll be picked apart because the other teams in the Super 8's, who we expect to be in the Super 8's, have all made major improvements and they won't have to go through quite as much to get there as Monaghan will," said McKeon.

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After Cavan got off to a dream start, reeling off points and slotting a fortunate penalty, Monaghan never recovered and McKeon believes their poor start impacted their composure much too easily.

"Monaghan were constantly constantly chasing [the game] and it started to show in their play. They started skying shots from long distance when they were being well marked.

"Things like that, real symbolic moments in a game when [Beggan] misses a free or Conor McManus hits a wide, Cavan got all of them and they just kind of built on the momentum," said McKeon.

Although the panel believed that Cavan were deserved winners, they did sympathise with Monaghan over the Breffni men's penalty that helped kick-start their victory, with Irish Independent GAA reporter Michael Verney calling it 'absolute nonsense.'

"Cavan set the tone in the first five or six minutes even if the penalty was nonsense, he mis-controlled the ball and he got a penalty for it. But that start put Cavan completely on the front foot," said McKeon.

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