Okay, the Donegal game is now boxed away and so it’s onto our Round 7 match against Monaghan next Sunday. This one is back on home turf with throw-in at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park set for the earlier time of 1.45pm that afternoon, which will seem even earlier as the clocks will have gone forward the night before.
Meath’s David Gough is the ref for it. The match isn’t on television – our first match in this League campaign that isn’t – but there’ll be live radio commentary on Midwest.
As the National League draws to a conclusion each year, the Farney lads are invariably up to their elbows in a desperate fight to avoid the drop from Division One. Malachy Clerkin of the Irish Times – a son of Kavanagh County soil himself – produced the wonderful stat twelve months ago that, in three of the previous six years, Monaghan had occupied a relegation spot in Round 7 injury time but in each instance they’d managed to wriggle clear to safety by the time the final whistle had sounded.
They’re back in the soup again this year. The mathematicians might demur but Donegal below them are certainly doomed while Monaghan need to beat us and then hope that results elsewhere go their way.
Armagh, just a point above Monaghan but with the head-to-head advantage over them, are in the greatest peril of getting sucked into the quagmire. If the Farney lads beat us and Tyrone beat Armagh then the apples will fall from the Orchard and Monaghan will, once again, have avoided the dreaded drop.
Roscommon (who play Donegal), Tyrone and Kerry aren’t entirely safe yet either but the first two play at home while Kerry, even if they lose, have significant points difference and the head-to-head advantage on Monaghan so, realistically, they’re not in any kind of serious danger. In essence, two from the current bottom three are for the hop.
Conor McKeown in today’s Indo has a good piece about Monaghan’s penchant for escapology and discusses Sunday’s permutations – that’s here.
Given Monaghan’s Houdini-like talents, they’re not the kind of gents any team would be rushing to meet in Round 7. Then again, I’m sure we’re not their ideal dancing partners in the League’s last chance saloon either.
As they know full well, we’re the team in the best form in Division One and, while we might shuffle the deck a bit in light of the matches to come the following two weekends, they’ll know that we won’t be in any mood to gift them a handy passage to the lifeboats.
The Farneymen can’t take too much succour from their past record against us in Castlebar either. We’ve played them there a total of eight times and we’ve won six of those games while they’ve won one and another one was drawn.
Our most recent win was last year in the qualifiers, a typically nervy backdoor encounter that we were thankful to emerge from with a four-point victory. That’s also, incidentally, the only time we’ve ever crossed swords in the Championship.
Aside from the League, we also played them in the short-lived Centenary Cup where, in Ballina in April 1984, they ousted us in Round 2, winning by 1-11 to 0-6. Aghamore’s Padraig Duffy got all our scores that day. From our perspective at least, perhaps the less we say about that one, the better.
Back in more recent times, Monaghan beat us in MacHale Park in Round 1 of the 2017 League campaign. That’s their only ever win over us in the League at our place and I guess we could explain it away by the fact that most of our players weren’t long back in the country following their post-All-Ireland final holiday.
As the match report linked above confirms, that was also the night I was surprised by the kind souls of Club ’51 with an impromptu celebration in the Sportlann to mark ten years of the blog.
As well as that Championship encounter last summer, we gave them a good flailing at Castlebar in the 2019 League, on a day we qualified for a League final we went on to win. We beat them handily on home turf back in 2015 too.
This is Monaghan’s first season under Vinny Corey’s management and so far it’s been a ropey enough campaign, as their current standing in the table confirms. They’ve won two and lost four of the six matches they’ve played and that’s relegation form, no matter how you cut it. Teams have gone down on six points in the past and, in truth, that could be the fate awaiting Monaghan the next day, even if they do get the better of us.
They opened this League campaign with two defeats. The first was at home to Armagh, where they were edged out at Castleblaney by 1-14 to 1-12, following which they shipped a 3-16 to 0-14 thumping by Kerry down in Killarney.
Back in Clones for the next two rounds was when they bagged their two wins. The first came against a fairly hapless Donegal, winning that one by 1-20 to 0-15, following which they put a halt to the Rossies’ gallop, ending their three-match winning streak. Monaghan won that one by 0-14 to 0-11.
Back on the road in Round 5 saw them take on Galway at Pearse Stadium. That didn’t go well as the Tribesmen won by 1-13 to 0-10. Monaghan found no home comforts back at St Tiernach’s Park last Sunday either, where Tyrone had plenty to spare over them, winning by 2-15 to 0-13, in a game in which Monaghan finished with just thirteen players on the field.
So, it’s now do-or-die for them against us on Sunday, while we have the luxury of knowing we’re in the final the following weekend no matter what happens. You’d still think – winning being a habit as much as losing can be and all that – that we’ll still be keen to do the business. We know they’ll definitely fight like demons for a win that could well save them.
Which leads us to our usual denouement: how do you reckon this one will go? Let’s finish with a poll on that very question.
How will we do against Monaghan?
- Win (83%, 662 Votes)
- Lose (10%, 79 Votes)
- Draw (7%, 60 Votes)
Total Voters: 801