LEAGUE BACK UNDER CROKER’S LIGHTS

25 February 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Monaghan’s Allianz National Football League Division One campaign is back with a bang after the three-week break as they travel to the bright lights of Croke Park to take on Dublin this Saturday. by COLM SHALVEY

Monaghan started the league with back-to-back wins over Roscommon and Down, but they now face a much sterner test of their credentials against the All-Ireland champions, who have also hit the ground running. Already in 2016, Dublin have beaten two of the other leading contenders for national titles in recent years. They saw off 2014 All-Ireland winners and last year’s runners-up Kerry (albeit an understrength Kingdom side) in round one, before grinding out a low-scoring win away to perennial challengers Mayo a week later.

Monaghan did manage to beat Dublin in the 2006 NFL, before coming from behind to draw at Parnell Park two years later, but they have yet to turn the tables on the capital side since their reemergence as the dominant force in recent years. One-sided defeats in a 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final and in last year’s final-round league game in Clones left Monaghan facing a long uphill climb to get near the heights reached by Jim Gavin’s men, but they did close the gap significantly in the space of a week for the 2015 NFL semi-final, where they lost out by the narrowest of margins.

Monaghan are working with the same panel that featured in the opening two rounds, with veterans Dick Clerkin, Paul Finlay and Vincent Corey set to play no part on Saturday. Malachy O’Rourke has been playing Darren Hughes at full-forward (where he impressed in Scotstown’s run to the Ulster Club SFC Final) alongside All-Star Conor McManus, but the manager will have been pleased with how the likes of Thomas Kerr, Shane Carey and Owen Duffy have been chipping in on the scoreboard. Daniel McKenna also contributed scores off the bench against last year’s promoted teams and after stealing the ….

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