Monaghan are competing in their first All Ireland semi-final in 30 years and are just one step away from their first decider since 1930. The only thing that stands in their way – a determined Tyrone.
These sides have already met in the Ulster championship this year, with Monaghan coming out on top. It was a wonderful day for Monaghan football that was soon which was followed very quickly by a dark day, losing to Fermanagh in the Ulster semi-final. But they have shown great character to bounce back in the qualifiers and steadily made their way to the Super 8s without too much fuss.
The proved their mettle against Galway last week. Monaghan could have banked on Kildare putting up a good show again Kerry in the hope of scraping by on scoring difference, but they left nothing to chance instead going in with the attitude that nothing less than a win against the Connacht champions would do. And it is that attitude that has been so impressive this season.
Monaghan have gone back to basics, doing the simple things right and besting teams without producing anything spectacular. They have so many leaders and extremely talented players from Rory Beggan to Karl O’Connell to Conor McManus and they have found the game-plan that extracts the best from those key players. But they will need to up-the-ante today if they are to beat Tyrone. They will need to produce the spectacular.
Tyrone are a different team since that loss in May. They are not a team content with reliving the glory days, instead are determined to lay down their own markers. Their character is unquestionable given their response to the early exit in Ulster and the way in which they fought back against Donegal last week. We could talk all day long about their blanket defence but it’s their forward line that has consistently impressed this summer. And it is their choice of scorers that will worry Monaghan. They had 13 different names on the score sheet against Donegal, nine against Dublin.
Mickey Harte’s use of his bench has been his key asset this summer and if he can utilise it as well as he did against Donegal, then you would expect Tyrone to pull away in the closing stages of the game.