Measuring Monaghan

Photo: The 42 (Inpho/James Crombie

It’s time, I guess, to bank those two valuable National League points claimed down in Tralee and switch the focus instead onto the Division One Round 7 game against Monaghan facing us this coming weekend. This one is a Sunday afternoon fixture, throwing in at MacHale Park at 2pm, where Tipperary’s Derek O’Mahoney will have the whistle.

It’s hard to figure out Monaghan. One minute they’re exceeding expectations, the next underperforming. Malachy O’Rourke and his players are, for sure, performing at a high level – all the more noteworthy given the size of the county and the small pick available to them – but consistency of performance has proven a bit of a problem for them.

That may not have been the case for them in last year’s League campaign, where they won five times – beating Kildare, Kerry, Tyrone, Donegal and Dublin – losing only to ourselves and Galway to earn third place in the Division One table. But it has been the pattern since then.

This started in Ulster last summer where, following a surprise 1-18 to 1-16 win over Tyrone that saw them installed as favourites to land the provincial title, they then promptly stumbled to semi-final defeat against Fermanagh, losing that low-scoring encounter by 1-8 to 0-10.

Like ourselves, defeat in the provincial championship left them with a bit to do to reach the Super 8s but, unlike us, this was a feat they proved able for. Mind you, had we been presented with a route featuring Waterford (whom they hammered 5-21 to 0-9 in Round 2), Leitrim (1-19 to 0-9 in Round 3) and Laois (0-19 to 1-11 in Round 4) we wouldn’t have complained either.

Having safely cleared those modest hurdles, Monaghan were bracketed in Group 1 of the Super 8s and it was here that their season suddenly took off. Having beaten Kildare by 0-15 to 1-10 at Croke Park in Phase 1, the Farneymen then almost pulled off a major shock by doing everything but beat Kerry in Clones. They would have too, but for David Clifford’s moment of magic that snatched a draw at the death for a severely rattled Kerry team.

Photo: Irish News (Seamus Loughran)

That 1-17 apiece draw did, though, leave Kerry’s hopes hanging by a thread, as they’d already lost to Galway in Phase 1. The Tribesmen looked set to top the Group when, after beating Kildare in Phase 2, they had Monaghan at home in the final round. But that’s when Malachy O’Rourke’s side upped the gas again, doling out a comprehensive 0-16 to 0-8 beating to Galway in Pearse Stadium, which had the dual effect of ensuring that Monaghan qualified for the semis having topped the Group 1 table while also eliminating Kerry.

That win, though, saw Monaghan paired in the semi-final for the second time last summer with Tyrone. In retrospect it was almost inevitable they’d lose this one – as they’d done to the same opposition at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage in both 2013 and again in 2015, when both times they’d arrived at HQ as Ulster champions – and lose it they did, going under agonisingly by 1-13 to 0-15.

Photo: The 42 (Inpho/Oisin Keniry)

Overall, though, 2018 had to be counted as a major success for the Farney County. Now established as one of the leading forces in the game they had every right to look forward to this year with considerable optimism.

They started the year in fine form too, beating All-Ireland champions Dublin by 2-13 to 1-13 in Round 1 of this year’s League. This win in Clones was their second League victory in a row over Dublin and it marked the first ever time Jim Gavin had suffered successive losses to the same county as Dublin manager.

That win should have set Monaghan up for another positive spring campaign. It didn’t and instead they soon became embroiled in a battle to avoid relegation, a fight they haven’t fully won heading into our meeting with them.

It all started to go wrong in Round 2 where they unexpectedly came unstuck, by 1-12 to 0-13, away to Roscommon. A second defeat to Connacht opposition followed, this time on home turf as Galway left Iniskeen with the spoils on a scoreline of 1-9 to 0-11.

Things went from bad to worse in Round 4 as Tyrone comprehensively mastered them in Healy Park, winning comfortably by 1-16 to 0-12. Another defeat followed in Round 5 but this time Monaghan’s performance level was far higher as they went toe-to-toe all afternoon with Kerry in Killarney before the Kingdom pulled away late on to win by 0-17 to 0-13.

That meant that last Saturday’s derby meeting with Cavan at Clones was, in effect, a relegation decider. It was here that Monaghan’s League campaign finally took a turn to the positive, the 0-14 to 1-8 win they chiselled out that day giving them a small bit of breathing space going into the final round.


In truth, they’re probably safe enough no matter how they fare against us on Sunday. Cavan and Roscommon sit below them in the table and with the former playing Dublin and the latter up against Kerry in the final round it’d be a major surprise if either were to have leapfrogged Malachy O’Rourke’s charges come Sunday evening.

That said, surprise results do happen from time to time in the League so the Farney lads will for sure arrive in Castlebar knowing that their best route to survival lies in doing what they can to help themselves. If they beat us then they’re definitely safe so you can be sure that’s what they’ll be aiming to do.

For our part, of course, there’s a possible League final appearance dangling in front of us. Unlike Monaghan, though, our fate doesn’t rest entirely in our own hands because, even if we win on Sunday, should Galway overcome Tyrone up in Healy Park they’ll make the Division One decider ahead of us.

Like Monaghan, though, we’ll know that getting the win in Castlebar is what we need to focus on. All of which should make for a tasty enough battle at MacHale Park the next day.

It’s one in which the bookies favour us to do the business. Paddy Power have us on offer at 4/7 and they’ve also installed us, by the way, as 9/2 second favourites – behind 8/15 Kerry – to win the Division One title outright.

Odds, shmodds – let’s finish by injecting a bit of gut instinct into the proceedings: how do you think we’ll do on Sunday?

How will we do against Monaghan?

  • Win (68%, 458 Votes)
  • Lose (22%, 149 Votes)
  • Draw (9%, 62 Votes)

Total Voters: 669

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29 thoughts on “Measuring Monaghan

  1. Like ourselves, Monaghan have an ability to beat anyone on their day and then drop points to the most unlikely of opposition. I’d nearly be happier if this was an away game for us, as our home ground could hardly qualify as having been a happy hunting ground in the last while. Plus from a selfish perspective it would be easier to get approval from herself and for me to get to the game, but that’s by the by. I may still get to it but it will involve negotiations that would put all Brexit discussions in the hapenny place by comparison.
    We should be going for the win and pay no regard what happens elsewhere, we have a chance to make a league final and we need to win to give ourselves the best shot of doing that.

  2. I’m not too worried whether we make the league final or not. What I would like to see is more of the younger generation being given a start, all of last Sunday’s starters plus Reape, McCormack and , if fit, Treacy and or Diskin. I’d also like to see Eoin O’Donoghue start.
    The match in Omagh is an intriguing one. Tyrone looked to be trying a bit of real football against the Dubs. Will they continue it against Galway and will Galway persist with their defensive style?

  3. We will know after 5 minutes whether Horan wants to play in a league final or not. I think it would be a great experience for the younger lads, but the long term summer plans may trump that.

  4. Personally I dont care about the league final. I really want us to get into the habit of winning at home. Monaghan have a great record in Castlebar, and they’ll be fighting for they’re lives, they’ll probably edge this one, but depends on if Horan really wants a league final or not?. I’d agree that alot of the young lads should start Sunday, Reape, Diskin, Treacy, McCormack, O’Donoghue should all get 70mins. Theirs no pressure Sunday, a trip to Croker is always nice, but the long term development of this team is whats really important. Monaghan will be at championship pace on Sunday, lets send the following team out and see how they fair, they’d learn more Sunday, than a dozen challenge matches!!!
    1. Schlingerman
    2. Barrett
    3. Harrison
    4. O’Donhoue
    5. Keegan
    6. Plunkett
    7. McCormack
    8. Ruane
    9. Aidan
    10. McDonagh
    11. Loftus/Boland
    12. Treacy
    13. Diskin
    14. Reape
    15. McGloughlin (to get more match fitness)

  5. Really not that pushed about a league final. It’s only an outside chance and I’m okay with that.

    Good opportunity on Sunday to try a few more of the younger lads. Presume Diskin and O’Donoghue have been carrying a few injuries.

  6. Have to say Monaghan is a team I have admired for the last number of years. Despite a fairly small playing population they have been very competitive for quite a while and are capable of beating anyone on their day. To win a few Anglo Celts in the very hard fought province of Ulster is a fair achievement. Ironically Ulster teams have often been their downfall once they get to Croke Park especially Tyrone They have some fantastic players and what would we in Mayo give for a Ciaran McManus. They also have been difficult opponents for us especially in Castle bar. Hard to call the game on Sunday. Some of our fans were ultra critical when we lost to Galway and ultra complimentary when we defeated Kerry, the narrative being that we were brutal v Galway and brilliant v Kerry.. I don’t agree. We did many good things v Galway and were not perfect v Kerry. That’s what one would expect this time of year. Monaghan will present a formidable challenge and we will have to do well to come out on top.

  7. If I was a Mayo supporter I would be hoping to reach the final, ye have a chance to play either Kerry, Galway or Tyrone in Croker with a very significant national title on the line. What a game to prepare for the championship which is only just beyond the falling petals of the cherry blossom.

    We have a very good chance of making it and I wouldn’t trade the opportunity of playing any of the possible teams in the mix for anything. This time of the year it’s allabout preparation and learning and all teams involved have a really great chance of winning the final and even for the losing team it will be a great Yard stick of where they are and where they have to improve. The dubs are still the best team out there but they have missed their stop and are out of contention. This league table has opened the door for the other four teams in the hunt for Sam to show their worth, time to fo for it I say.

  8. I can tell you now Horan will want to play in a league final. It’s nonsense to think otherwise. These new guys need big games under pressure.
    I’m not convinced that winning will be enough. Galway may very well have the corofin boys back and they will make some difference.
    Like ourselves they are itching to have another big day out in croke park

  9. Well said game changer. No hiding places and who wants to hide. Maybe some of our supporters are dwelling on the negative side of the coin and can’t bear the thought of another defeat in a final.
    Thankfully we have a breed of player nowadays whose glass is half full….

  10. Of course we want to make the League Final, If at all possible! ..And then win it, Why not?… it’s NOT totally in our own hands, as Willie Joe has stated in his detailed and well researched piece…In theory, Galway, Kerry and Mayo could all end up on 10 point’s, stranger things have happened…then it goes to scoring average, as things stand on that front so far, Kerry are on +11, Mayo +7 and Galway +0, (If it’s possible to be plus zero, maybe it’s minus zero?)…So there will be allot of tuning in to on Radios, Twitter, ECT in Mchale Park on Sunday…. Cavan can even stay up, believe it or not, but it would take this very unlikely seneario for this to happen…If Mayo beat Monaghan hopefully.. and. If Roscommon draw with Kerry, and Cavan shock us all and beat the Dubs,, all three Monaghan, Roscommon and Cavan would be on 4 point’s, this extremely unlikely seneario could send Monaghan down with the Rossies, as Cavan have already a superior scoring adverage than Roscommon, of course if Roscommon lose and Cavan win, Roscommon can’t possibly stay up in this less unlikely event…. Really, only Dublin have nothing in terms of the League to play for, absolutely magnificent ending to the regulation League…So very excited about next Sunday….My heart goes out to the poor poor (but well paid) mandarins in Croke Park who will have to make do with a League Final , Without their beloved Dubs!

  11. One thing that can’t happen is Mayo playing Tyrone but I agree, would love to be in the league final.

  12. Think it’s really stupid of people to just disregard a National League Final and think by playing it will sort of stop us from winning Sam this year.
    Its the 2nd best prize you can win at Inter County Senior level.We have only won 1 title since 1970 which we won in 2001 and we wonder why we haven’t won an All Ireland title in so long.
    Think of the confidence it would give the likes of Matty Ruane, Fionn McDonagh, Michael Plunkett, Brian Reape, Conor Diskin, and Conor Loftus to win a National final against Kerry in Croke Park.
    We need silverware too in the cabinet we havn’t won a Nestor cup since 2015

  13. I find it hard to weigh up some of the supporters thoughts on here at times…aah im not too bothered about a league final really. That confuses me. We havent won a league final in nearly 20 years now. For the last few years, we have had to rely on last gasp points to even stay in division 1. We should be relishing a league final and a win if possible. It would be a great boost of confidence for the players, especially the new members of the panel. And with our old nemesis Dublin unable to make the final. We would have every chance of beating whatever opposition we would likely meet. Anyway, a few results have to go our way on Sunday first. But i would gladly take any silverware at this stage of the new Horan era.

  14. Dave i think the dread of another final loss is real for alot of the old soldiers on here.
    Our history is unique in sports.
    So many losses and near misses and guys are so invested in the journey that they nearly dread watching but cant fo anything else. The fear is another defeat might finish the team compleatly.
    It wont though. These fellas have had ample opportunity to fold the tent and go home and plenty of reason to as well. Even if we lose a league and All Ireland final in 2019 this team will be back out in January 2020 and there will be a crowd there to watch them.

  15. We should be aiming for a league final and attempting to win it. National titles are hard come by in recent years and this will be the first time in years that the dubs won’t be involved. All of the other teams vying for it are very beatable. A league title is not to be sniffed at and this is a great opportunity.

  16. I was in croke park the last time we won the League Final v Galway. A dirty game that we won by a point. I do not remember Mayo fans jumping up and down with excitement after we won. Because of this I understand our supporters saying they are not too bothered. Galway was one of the top teams at the time and we were well down the pecking order so it was a great win from that perspective.

  17. Qualifying for the league final is really out of our hands as we require other results to go in our favour. We need to win on Sunday to keep momentum going into the championship. IMO Horan should be playing the strongest team possible in order to achieve a good win at home. I never really buy the whole play the youth to see what they are like, Hora sees plenty of them in training. If we win and other results go our way then go out in a weeks time and win the next game.

  18. “It doesn’t matter whether you win by an inch or a mile: winning is winning”. Dunno if the bould Vin Diesel ever played ball but he’s not wrong…

  19. Jesus PJ I don’t know about you but I think the crowd looks pretty excited at the end here!! And If Diarmuid happens to lift the National League trophy in Croker on Sunday week against the Kingdom or that shower in Maroon , I will be a very , very happy man.
    This don’t bother with the League thing or it wont mean anthin if we don’t have a long summer is utter bullshit in my opinion. Any team that has any ambitions of winning Sam should be well to go out and win the Fbd, National League and Nestor cup and not think it’s going to hinder them later in the Summer and the other reason of not playing in a final cause we might lose it and it adds to our bad record just sickens me entirely.To eventually win and make the breakthrough we have to keep reaching finals as much as it might be a pain to lose them , there’s no other way around it!!

  20. Mayomad, I disagree slightly re playing young players, training is one thing but it is important to see how they stand up to the cut and thrust of a match.

    I would go with a mixture on Sunday, Monaghan will provide a great test, and will give younger players great confidence if they stand up to this test. May reconsider team selection if we were to qualify for the final, but success more likely if we have strong panel rather than a strong first 15.

  21. Sean – The Mayo News said that he won’t be. I wonder has he suffered a setback with the knee injury, he was supposed to be around for the last couple of games?

  22. @pat. Other teams in sports suffer in finals as well.

    The poor old Buffalo Bills were beaten in 4 consecutive Super Bowls from 91 to 94.

    I would love us to be contesting the league final.
    Get to it Sunday hopefully and have a right crack at winning it.
    It would be a huge accomplishment especially with all the new players that have been tried.

  23. Monaghan are an unpredictable shower,
    Capable of beating absolutely anyone on their day, also capable of losing to anyone from div1 to div 3 on their day days. Seem to play better when underdogs which they will be this sunday.
    What they have is loads of heart, the best manager in the country in my opinion in O’Rourke and the best corner forward in the country in McManus.

    A lot of really pleasing stuff from last weeks game for Mayo that answered questions we asked the previous week, ie
    – the newbies stood up again. Ruane, McDonogh and co performed well again, they look like certs to start in champo now.
    – our lack of a creative ball playing center forward might have been answered accidentally in Kevin McLoughlin, who tied things together brilliantly with lovely pop passes all night. Still ridiculously underrated, Kev Mc is the guy who makes the entire forward line play better
    – AOS much improved playing as an orthodox midfielder, his best performance in a long time last week. His strengths are ballwinning and tackling, leave him at no 8 and let Ruane and wingbacks do the attacking

    I am predicting a mayo win though by about 4 points and a Kerry v Mayo final (i think Tyrone will beat Galway)

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