Monaghan a tough nut

Donegal's discipline in tackling will have to improve

Monaghan a tough nut

“Will Galway beat Mayo? Not if they have Willie Joe.” This is a famous line from a song back in the 80s. Mayo would have needed Willie Joe Padden last Saturday evening. There’s hope after all. Galway’s shock defeat of Mayo in the Connaught football championship ended Mayo’s dominance in that province at least.

While everyone was talking of another Mayo title (I was too) with Roscommon trailing in second place, few gave the Tribesmen of Galway little hope of conquering Mayo who were going for their sixth consecutive title.

The pairing of Roscommon and Galway in the Connaught final is a welcome departure from the Mayo versus another team tedium. We need to sort out Leinster and Munster now with the repetition of Dublin and Kerry respectively appearing in their provincial deciders. The Mayo players are left with egg on their chins since they pushed out their manager last year. It was a case of the tail wagging the dog. Players should have a minimal input into the election of a team manager but not the majority of say.

Unfortunately, the match was broadcast live on Sky so I didn’t see the game. RTE managed to show a few minutes of the highlights on The Sunday Game.

Thank God for Galway and indeed Cavan, who almost caused another shock when they drew with Ulster favourites Tyrone in Clones last Sunday. At last we had two quite good games over the weekend. The championship has at last come alive. Cavan unsettled Tyrone throughout this game but in all reality Tyrone were the better team. The fact that there were wet and windy conditions meant that the game would be more balanced. Cavan’s three goals were fortunate but Tyrone will not be happy that their defence was, for once,very vulnerable. I believe that Cavan may have lost their chance though because I cannot see Mickey Harte’s men conceding another three goals in the replay. Last Sunday’s result gives us all encouragement though.

Monaghan and Donegal face-off in the other Ulster semi-final this weekend which has the potential for a fiery encounter. Donegal are hurting after their defeat to Monaghan last year in the Ulster final. Donegal know that this was a game that they should have won.

If we are to judge the two teams on recent performances, then Monaghan should go into this game as favourites. They absolutely hammered Down while we were less than impressive against Fermanagh. This will count for little on Saturday evening though. The two teams are well acquainted with each other and there is no love lost between the two sets of players.

Monaghan play on the edge and are not shy about getting stuck in. Donegal will have to match them in this facet of the game but it is important that we maintain our discipline which has been questionable in recent times.

Managers, believe it or not, scan through the papers to find anything written which will provide motivation for their team. For example, if I belittled Monaghan in any way, my words would be cemented into the heads of the Monaghan players by their manager. Not me sir. I believe that Monaghan are a good team that has failed to deliver beyond Ulster. I also believe that their manager Malachy O’Rourke is a shrewd man who has brought Monaghan to new heights. He has gotten the better of Donegal on a few occasions and he will be confident that his team will outwit Donegal again on Saturday. I’d even give Monaghan the nod for Saturday. They possess one of the best forwards in the country in Conor McManus.

Donegal, too, are a good team but concerns exist over our conceding of frees in our defence. As mentioned above, the team’s discipline in all areas needs to be tempered. Although Donegal did not annihilate Fermanagh, the team were always in control and never looked like losing the game.

I expect this to be a very close game where tactics will play a pivotal role. Monaghan beat Donegal last year at our own game. They sat back and counter attacked when we lost possession. I don’t see why Monaghan will change their approach this time round either. They will let Donegal do the pressing. It will be a case of we have the ball for a while and then they have the ball for a while.

Last Sunday, Cavan decided to lump the ball into their full-forward line and look what happened. I still feel that Michael Murphy is best employed in the full-forward position. It takes two men to mark him. Kilcar’s Patrick McBrearty is playing really well at the moment and it will take two men to mark him also. I believe that if we keep our discipline, be economical in our shooting and concede less frees then we will prevail.

We have technically the better team who has experience in abundance. Donegal manager Rory Gallagher has been very loyal to the mature players in the Donegal panel. There is a cliché in the vocabulary of every GAA football manager’s speech in the dressing room, “Play every game as though it is your last”. This season may well signal the end for some of them. If this in itself is not a motivating factor, then what is?

Tir Conaill Abu!