2 March 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

It seems a long time since Monaghan United’s last outing in the league of Ireland, the large contingent of supporters who travelled to Terryland Park for the second leg of the qualifiers against Galway United came away in ecstatic mood as the result saw their side make a return to the Premier Division after an absence of a decade, as for the Galway side it looks like their status as a league of Ireland side is now history.
But winning the qualifiers did not guarantee automatic promotion, a Premier Licence had to be acquired to trade in the top Division, the resultant inspection of the Gortakeegan grounds saw it come up somewhat short of the requirements, but Trojan work from many willing hands during the close season saw the completion of the many necessary tasks and as in previous season United acquired the licence.
Who would Monaghan United get in the opening game of the Premier? Well had Mons supporters been given the opportunity of selecting the opposition and venue they couldn’t have done it any better- Dundalk at Gortakeegan.
Since the clubs foundation in 1979 games with the Orielmen are the only ones that Monaghan United could regard as derbies, there have been many memorable engagements all in living memory between the sides and if the completion between them was not already tense enough we can now add into the mix a Monaghan man as Dundalk manager. Sean McCaffrey brings a wealth of experience to the role of manager to Oriel Park.
Immediately prior to this appointment he was Irish International manager of Ireland’s Under 19’s, but nowhere is he more regarded for his football brain as around his native heath of Monaghan, indeed when Mick Cook’s sudden departure last season left United rudderless the first man they turned to was McCaffrey who was unavailable at the time.
Sean McCaffrey may have escaped the clutches of Monaghan United but what a capture they made in attracting Roddy Collins as manager. Most managers could only dream of making the impact that Collins has made in his first season at United, he has been an instant hit with the supporters. On his arrival in Monaghan most thought that he was leaving many hostages to fortune when he stated that come the end of the season Monaghan United would be promoted and remember he was taking over a squad that he had inherited and probably knew few of them, but he was as good as his word and he delivered as promised.
When it came to appointing the manager for the 2012 season there was no problem, there was a mutual understanding, both Collins and United wanted to continue doing business with each other, no sooner had the old season ended than Collins had sign! ed on the dotted line and immediately set about assembling a new squad. Many of the old faces from last season have moved on, since most of these players had been signed by Mick Cooke it was not surprising that they re-joined him at Drogheda, it is a common trend in the game.
But the squad of players that Roddy Collins has assembled for the new season would appear to bring the necessary experience and are more adequate for Premier Division football. The players remaining are captain Alan Byrne, Aidan Collins (player of the season), Jordan Keegan, Roddy Collins Jnr, William McDonagh, Keith Quinn, John Reilly, Paul Whelan, and Conor McMahon. Very experienced new players in the form of Robert Bayly (ex Leeds United, Sporting Fingal, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians) Chris Bennion (ex-Middlesbrough, Shelbourne, Dundalk, Athlone and St Patrick’s Athletic) Michael Schlingermann (Athlone) and Da! rragh Reynor (ex-Nottingham Forest and son of former Monaghan United great John). Also making debuts for United are Daniel Mc Guinness, Owen Humphrey, Tony Griffiths and Conor Murphy.
Manager Collins is also very cognisant of the young local talent and hopes to include from the Under 19’s squad players Niall Crosbie, David Crosbie, James Clarke, Cillian Corcoran, Fearghal McMahon and Shane Dunne. United have also appointed a new player/assistant manager –Shaun Maher, who as a defender he has seen service with Bournemouth.
Pre season Collins took his charges north of the border for friendlies against teams from the Irish League, all were most useful exercises and would have helped his side to gel somewhat, however with so many new faces in the side it will take sometime get some settlement. But many sides are in a similar position and Sean Mc. Caffrey will be encountering the exact same experience as he tries to imprint his mark at his new club -Dundalk.
This long awaited encounter should guarantee a large turn out at Gortakeegan on Friday evening with both sides expecting to have good followings. Generally in the past Dundalk has found this a tough venue to get points in, I believe that it will be no different on this occasion.
A tight contest is guaranteed however of the two managers I believe Roddy Collins will be that bit more settled on the occasion as he is continuing where he left off last season whereas it’s Sean Mc Caffrey’s first outing with Dundalk and this should be enough to get Monaghan United their first points of the new season. The good will for Sean Mc. Caffrey at Gortakeegan will be left on hold for this week.
Last season saw a big rise in the United’s following both at home and away from the interest showing since United’s promotion it would appear that we can expect to see the numbers swell again this season.
Kick off for the Jointly sponsored game by McElvaney’s Waste and Recycing Scotchcorner and McArdles Office and Computer Supplies Church Sq., Monaghan at Gortakeegan on tomorrow night is at 8.p.m.

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