One of the impressive early performances in the football championship last weekend came from Monaghan.
Admittedly, beating Fermanagh isn’t the best win they have ever recorded, but yet there was a certain confidence about their first round win. Leading by just a point mid-way through the second half, Monaghan put their foot on the gas and blitzed Fermanagh to secure a comfortable win in what was a banana skin tie.
There was no panicking as they used their experience (and their ability) to ensure that they didn’t slip up, setting up a quarter-final clash with Cavan in the process.
But the question is: how far can this Monaghan team go? Over the last number of years, they have been good in Ulster, but have struggled when it has come to the All-Ireland series. Manager Malachy O’Rourke has delivered two Ulster titles in his four-year tenure, but the Farney men have failed to get past the All-Ireland quarter-final stage in those years.
In fact, before last year, where Monaghan were surprisingly knocked out of the championship by Longford, they had reached the last eight in the country three years in a row.
Is that Monaghan’s place? One of the top eight teams in the land, but outside the top four? Their Division One qualities were on show last Saturday, but how far can they take it?
From the Irish Times’ report on their 1-20 to 1-11 win:
“In the space of 20 minutes, Monaghan rained down 10 points on the spin and the game began to look more like what it was – a solid Division One team with ambitions against a side just relegated from Division Two whose hopes were fizzling by a minute. Conor McManus and Jack McCarron both slung over booming points in this run, confident scores that clearly came from Monaghan taking a stranglehold on the game.”
Monaghan are clearly one of the top eight sides in the country, that is almost beyond dispute. With players like Jack McCarron, Conor McManus and the Hughes’, Monaghan are a match for the top teams in the nation.
However, they lack one big thing: a win in Croke Park. Until they beat one of the big guns at HQ, it is hard to see Monaghan make the leap from often quarter-finalists, to finalists and potential champions.
With Donegal and Tyrone on the other side of the draw, they have a great chance of making another Ulster final. However, it is when they get outside of Ulster that Monaghan seem to lose their way. Rectify that, and there is the makings of an All-Ireland winning team there.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena