BUSINESS END OF THE ALLIANZ NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE ARRIVES

4 March 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

These rain-pocked, wind-battered, mud-splattered days make it a cold house for jaw-dropping football but counties like Monaghan do seem hell bent on providing punters with value-for-money football.

The consistency of Monaghan’s performances is only matched by the squad’s penchant for putting bums on seats and meat in the sandwich of post-mortems.

Last Saturday night was a case in point when Malachy O’Rourke’s troops won a lot of the battles in a gung-ho display at Croke Park only to ultimately lose the war.

Monaghan’s gutsy, brave and honest assault on Dublin’s iron-clad reputation as the invincibles of Gaelic football won them loads of plaudits but, crucially, no National League points. Still, O’Rourke, to coin a phrase, may well have learned more about his charges in defeat. Time will tell.

The Fermanagh man won’t have learned anything more though about Conor McManus than he did prior to taking on Dublin. He won’t have learned anything new about his team’s reliance on McManus either and, in that respect, Monaghan’s narrow one point defeat (0-16 to 1-14) had a tinge of the curate’s egg about it.

The Clontibret clubman was Monaghan’s only scorer in the second half. The mind boggles as to how the county would cope without him if illness, injury etc were to sideline him.

Donegal’s collective strength up front is beginning to show its face again. The names Murphy, McFadden, McHugh, McLoone, McBrearty, Toye and MacNiallais conjure up a vision of match-winning scores and a division of labour which few other counties in Ulster and Ireland could only dream of sporting.

When Jim McGuinness won the Sam Maguire Cup in 2012, his side beat the bookies’ odds of 8/1 to win the Ulster title on the way; by dint of his team’s superior cutting edge as much as his revolutionary tactics. After all, forwards win matches.

In Ballybofey last weekend, the current Donegal team must surely have cut their odds on regaining at least the Anglo Celt Cup this year. They were mightily impressive in consolidating their place at the summit of division one with a 1-14 to 1-12 win over under-pressure Mayo.

Mayo’s rebellious players will be frothing at the mouth this Sunday to get something from their tussle with Monaghan. It has all the makings of being a firecracker of a match with the westerners desperate to break their duck and restore some pride in the camp. Monaghan too have every incentive to carry the day, not least because…

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