Midweek already and so it’s time to start thinking ahead to the next challenge awaiting us in this National Football League campaign. Round 4 this coming Sunday sees us taking on Monaghan at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones, where throw-in is at the slightly later time of 2.30pm. Cavan’s Joe McQuillan has the whistle for this one.
The Farney County are going okay so far this year. They plundered a late win, courtesy of an injury time goal by their All-Star forward Conor McManus, against Roscommon at Kiltoom on the League’s opening weekend and then made it two wins from two the following Sunday when they got the better of Down by two points at Clones. Their 100% record went by the wayside, though, last Saturday night at Croke Park but it was a match they only lost by the minimum margin. Monaghan were actually out in front with time running out but a late Dublin surge, capped by a bit of Bernard Brogan brilliance, proved the visitors’ undoing.
Central to Monaghan’s positive display on Saturday night was Conor McManus, who accounted for twelve points – nine from frees – out of his side’s total of sixteen. It goes without saying that we’ll need to watch him closely up at Clones on Sunday.
The Clontibret clubman was a late withdrawal from the Monaghan team we last faced, which was in the third round of the League this time last year. We beat them soundly that day – their complete lack of discipline saw two of their players ordered off on straight reds and a few more of them should have walked too, given the amount of swinging they were doing. Those advocating a more pugilistic mien from our lads might, indeed, do well to reflect on how far that hard-man approach got the Farneymen that day. Once they were down to thirteen, we beat them at our ease and ended up with a thirteen-point margin of victory.
The last time we played them on their home soil was at Iniskeen back in April 2011. We were already safe, they were battling relegation but their two-point win over us that day in a high-scoring open game wasn’t enough to prevent them taking the hop down to Division Two. What I recall most from that day was the glorious, warm sunshine and those lovely green and red seats in the little stand at the picturesque Kavanagh Country venue.
You have to go back further, much further in fact, to find the last match we played against them at Sunday’s venue. That was in November 1989 when, still flush from our first glorious near-miss with Sam in decades, we had five points to spare over the home side. That wasn’t the most recent time we beat them up there, though – we got the better of them in Clontibret in March 2006, winning by 1-16 to 1-11.
With the exception of that 1989 game (by which time I was domiciled in London), I was at all of the other contests between us that I’ve mentioned just now. I doubt I’ll make Clones on Sunday, though – matches involving the kids up here have now established a fairly firm foothold on The Lord’s Day and there are at least two separate ones to get to this Sunday. I’m still not ruling myself out 100% from this one – not least given that it’s such any easy drive from here in Dublin – but I have to be rated extremely doubtful for it.
Indeed, a bit like Keith Higgins, my appearance at any other League matches this year is up in the air. I doubt I’ll get to the Kerry game and the Roscommon game is on Easter Sunday so I’m not sure about that either. That only leaves the Down match, which may or may not be a crucial one in our fight for survival within the top tier.
Turning to team news, the only definite news is on Keith who looks set to miss our next few games due to the hamstring problem he picked up in Ballybofey. Depending on the severity of the injury, the Ballyhaunis man might be back in time to face Roscommon but it could well be the summer campaign before he’s ready for road once more. We just have to take it as it goes there.
The Mayo News (paper and digital versions) reported yesterday that Caolan Crowe, Kevin Keane and Alan Freeman are all still out of action and are unlikely to be available for Sunday. With the likes of Seamus O’Shea (whom I’d say is a cert to start on Sunday), Chris Barrett and Andy Moran all available again, as is Michael Conroy, the pool from which to pick a starting fifteen has begun to deepen. We’ll more than likely name our team for the match on Friday evening.
The bookies have made Monaghan very slight favourites, at 4/5 (Paddy Power odds here), in what is a real backs-to-the-wall fixture for us. Another defeat, no matter how encouraging, and we can start packing our bags for Division Two. An overdue first win in this campaign could, in contrast, prove an ideal, if belated, kick-start to the year for us.
I’m optimistic enough about our chances on Sunday: how about the rest of you?
How will we fare against Monaghan?
- Win (74%, 209 Votes)
- Lose (20%, 55 Votes)
- Draw (6%, 18 Votes)
Total Voters: 282