Thursday 18 January 2018

Monaghan closing the gap on Donegal - Walshe

Monaghan's Colin Walshe
Monaghan's Colin Walshe

Orla Bannon

They have been ranked one and two in Ulster for a few years now, and while Colin Walshe accepts that Donegal have been the market leaders up north, he reckons Monaghan are closing fast.

It's not a scenario Walshe (pictured) envisaged over the winter when he was recovering from the cruciate knee injury sustained in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin last year.

"I think people expected us to come out on our side of the draw but you probably couldn't forecast the two of us meeting again," he said.

"Part of that is just that we've stayed apart in the draw, but the best teams still normally come out on top and we have both made it through again.

"Donegal have come through a minefield and have been the dominant force in Ulster football for a while. They've been the team to beat, but we have been pushing at their tails.

"They have been motivated by their loss in the All-Ireland final last year and are trying to get back to that, but we are trying to win another Ulster ourselves and really need a big performance."

After two big highs and good performances against Tyrone and Armagh, Derry were able to cool Donegal's jets in the semi-final.

Still, Rory Gallagher's men have been operating at a higher level than Monaghan, who by Walshe's own admission, laboured past Cavan and Fermanagh.

"We definitely weren't holding anything back but yeah, we wouldn't have been happy with our two performances," he said. "We feel we didn't fulfil our potential but look, an Ulster final would be a good day to try and do that."

With doubts lingering over full-back Drew Wylie's fitness after a medial ligament injury, Walshe's defensive capabilities will be tested to the max, with Paddy McBrearty and Colm McFadden a lot more threatening than they were 12 months ago.

The 2013 All Star corner-back may well pick up McBrearty, who has been playing closer to goals this year and thriving.

"He has been going well so far, and McFadden is playing in a more withdrawn role and putting in big games for them too, while Michael Murphy has been floating in and out," Walshe acknowledged. "Between the three of them, we've always said it, they have one of the best full-forward lines in the country."

The distance Murphy is nailing frees from this summer hasn't escaped Monaghan's notice either, and any indiscretions will likely be punished.

Walshe said: "He has taken his free-taking to a whole other level this year. He's taking them from crazy distances, and so consistently as well, so discipline is something we have to hone so we don't give up those chances.

"We did give up a lot of free-kicks to Fermanagh and Cavan, and they might have let us off the hook, but I don't think Michael Murphy will."

Walshe says he has a pep in his step and feeling fresh coming into the business end of the season.

He kicked an important point when coming off the bench against Cavan and then started against Fermanagh, but feels he has watched too many matches from the sideline.

No better day to make up for lost time than in an Ulster final, and he has a sense Monaghan are more comfortable in their own skin on big match days now.

"In 2013 when we got to our first Ulster final under Malachy (O'Rourke) we were probably looking to the older players who had been there in the 2007 and 2010 defeats (to Tyrone) to give a bit of guidance," he said.

"Now, we have a core of players who are playing in their third final in a row and they've got that experience built up, which should stand to us."

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