The final is going to be a real tough battle

The final is going to be a real tough battle
The dye is cast and it is Donegal and Monaghan once again in the Ulster final and a repeat of last year’s showdown.

The dye is cast and it is Donegal and Monaghan once again in the Ulster final and a repeat of last year’s showdown.

As we all are only too well aware Monaghan came out on top last year. They had six points to spare at the finish.

We were well off the pace last year and off colour. But we are in a much better place this year.

Michael Murphy and Karl Lacey are both free from injury and in good shape and Christy Toye is back from injury and going well.

We have also unearthed new talent in Odhran MacNiallais and Darach O’Connor and Ryan McHugh has a championship season behind him and overall we are in a much better place than we were 12 months ago.

This time last year we were carrying a lot of knocks and bruises and the wear and tear from the previous year’s All-Ireland campaign took its toll and caught up with us. We are much fresher this season and playing with renewed energy.

Derry’s demise against Longford and Antrim’s defeat to Limerick, in the Qualifiers, does raise questions about our opposition so far and does create a slight doubt about the quality of teams that we have beaten. It could be argued that given their wins over Tyrone and Armagh and a group that also included Cavan and Down that Monaghan go into the final a little more battle hardened.

Mention of battle, that is something we can expect on Sunday in Clones. Monaghan teams by their nature are always physical. That is the way they play their football. A bit like Meath! And the lack of a physical edge is one thing this current Monaghan team under Malachy O’Rourke cannot be accused of. It is going to be a battle and we are going to have to be prepared to go to war once we cross the white line.

Conor McManus is their marquee forward. McManus and Kieran Hughes are the two men they play up front. They are both good ball winners and can score. McManus scored 1-7 against Armagh on Sunday last, in the replay and while Hughes is not flying on all cylinders - he is carrying an injury - he still is a handful.

Our full-back line, or whoever is assigned to marking duties in the full-back line, are going to have to be very tight. Armagh played them well by working very hard in the middle third and cutting down the supply of ball going in to the two danger men.

It is something we are going to have to do too and I think this is where our half-forward line are going to have to come in. They are really going to have to roll up their sleeves and supplement our midfield and half-back line and get stuck in and win dirty ball.

I also feel it is important that we hit Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden with good early ball. It is important that the ball going into Michael and Colm is of a fair good quality because Monaghan are going to employ a sweeper in front of the two boys. If we do I think it will go along to see us prevail on the day.

The Monaghan defence are tenacious, very physical and no slouches. Vinny Corey at centre half -back and Drew Wylie at full-back are good footballers but I also feel they are lacking in pace. This is something we should work on exploiting.

We are in the minor final too. Declan Bonner has assembled a good squad of players and I feel we are in with a very good chance against Armagh. Hopefully, Declan and boys can get the day off to a winning start and register the first part of the double.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack.