Right, it’s Tuesday already so time to shift the focus on towards next weekend and our NFL Round 2 clash with Monaghan. This game takes place on Sunday at St Tiernach’s Park where throw-in is 2pm. Seán Hurson of Tyrone is the ref for it. The match isn’t on TV and isn’t been streamed either but Midwest will have radio commentary on it.
The most recent time we played in Clones was in late February 2020, just a few weeks before normal life ceased to exist for all of us. Our football world seemed to be falling round our ears that day too, as we took a right pounding from the Farney lads, losing by 2-16 to 0-13. Soon after, though, football was the last thing on the minds of most people.
When League action resumed in the autumn that year, Monaghan lost to Kerry and drew with Meath. That was enough for them to stay up, as our long run in the top tier came to an end.
Their 2020 Championship run was, though, over in the blink of an eye. Drawn against Cavan in Ulster’s preliminary round, they sensationally lost by 2-15 to 1-17 after extra-time in Clones and so were gone after a single outing.
In last year’s National League they were in the all-Ulster Division One North. A defeat, to Armagh, and two draws – against Donegal and Tyrone – saw them prop up the mini-league table following which they played Galway in a relegation avoider. Lucky for them, that tie was fixed for Clones and, in a dramatic match that almost went all the way to penalties, Monaghan pinched the win by 1-21 to 2-17 after extra-time.
The Farneymen enjoyed a decent gallop in last year’s Championship, making it to the Ulster final where they lost out narrowly. In the quarter-finals they beat Fermanagh by 1-21 to 0-14 before besting Armagh by 4-17 to 2-21 in a most un-Ulster semi-final shootout. In the Anglo-Celt Cup decider Monaghan were edged out by Tyrone, losing by 0-16 to 0-15, a result that took on added significance in light of the O’Neill County’s subsequent exploits last summer.
Fast forward to last month and the rapid-fire McKenna Cup campaign. Like Donegal, Monaghan played four pre-season matches in January and they ended up as tournament winners. They played two group games in three days, starting off with an 0-12 apiece draw with Derry at Ownebeg, which they then followed up with an 0-16 to 0-11 win over Fermanagh back in Clones.
They got the rub of the green in the semis, where they beat Armagh 5-4 on penalties, after the sides finished level at the Athletic Grounds on a scoreline of 0-15 each.
In the final they beat Donegal by 1-11 to 0-13. They were well in control of that match at Healy Park at half-time, when they led by six, but once Donegal had brought on Michael Murphy the contest changed completely and Monaghan were hanging on for dear life at the finish.
They were back in Omagh last Sunday for another close fought match, this time in Round 1 of the League against All-Ireland champions Tyrone. No more than ourselves down the road in Sligo, the weather in Omagh wasn’t conducive to expansive football and that one ended in an 0-9 apiece draw.
Like the Donegal game, when we face Monaghan on Sunday they’ll have within their backroom team a man who was once heavily involved with us. Indeed, it was James Horan who first lured Donie Buckley to the Mayo set-up but he’s now a member of Banty McEneaney’s management team, which also includes former Tipp manager Liam Sheedy in its ranks.
How will we ever cope with such star quality on the sideline? How will we manage against a team we often struggle with at this time of year, a team that, like Donegal last weekend, have way more work done than us?
I think it’s safe enough to conclude that if we only play properly for fifteen minutes next Sunday, as we did the last day, we’ll come away from St Tiernach’s Park with one hand as long as the other. We simply have to perform better for longer the next day.
Okay, let’s call it – how will we fare in Clones on Sunday? It’s time for a quick straw poll on that one.
How will we do against Monaghan?
- Lose (48%, 388 Votes)
- Win (40%, 322 Votes)
- Draw (12%, 97 Votes)
Total Voters: 807