Malachy O’Rourke stays calm in the storm of Monaghan’s victory
“A lot of small things have to come together and the boys had to be mentally tough”
Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke celebrates after the game. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The tunnel under the Gerry Arthurs Stand is fizzing. We stick dictaphones under chins and hope against hope they’re picking something up. The whole of Monaghan seems to be pressing against the barrier, the weight of a quarter of a century’s disappointment lifting into the Clones sky.
Malachy O’Rourke handles it all with an outsider’s detachment. Earlier in the day, as the minor match bubbled to a manic denouement, he stood with his back to the pitch doing an interview for the BBC. Only an outside manager would be able to do that, to turn away from the possibility of the county’s first Ulster minor title since 1945. When he spoke afterwards, it was obvious that being for Monaghan but not of Monaghan had served him and his team well.
“Donegal have been a superb team and their system is great but we just felt if we got our performance right we could test Donegal. We said all along we would be competitive and the boys had beaten Donegal before.
“It was a different Donegal team but there was great belief there. A lot of small things have to come together and the boys had to be mentally tough. When Donegal came back we had to keep our composure and not doing anything silly. We had to be disciplined.
“I knew how hard the boys were working all year. We were disappointed with our performance the first two days but on the flipside of that I knew there was a massive performance in the boys and I just felt during the week there was a great focus there and the boys were nice and relaxed.”
For Kieran Hughes, it was a display that Monaghan people have always felt he had in him yet hadn’t quite seen. He gave Eamonn McGee a chasing in the full-forward line, beating him in the air and on the ground. He torched him from the start and Donegal had nobody to send in as a replacement.
“I said during the week that I would like to go in full-forward for the first five minutes and I could get my hands on the ball. On a day like that, if you are not able to play football, you may quit.
“As soon as I opened the curtains this morning and saw that it was dull and the sun was behind the clouds – I wouldn’t be a big man for playing in the heat and having sandpaper mouth. But the Monaghan people were coming today more in hope than expectation. We knew that we could take these boys if we set up right.”
Jim McGuinness was the picture of good grace. No quibbles, no argument. Better team won, hungrier team won.
“We weren’t our usual self. I suppose we have to look at that in terms of our own performance, it’s probably a wee bit early at this stage to say why. You would be forming opinions in your head but really it will be about ourselves and the players sitting down and looking at the game, evaluating it very honestly and then we’ll try to move forward based on the information.”
Any signs a flat day might be coming beforehand?
“No, not at all, we trained very well in the lead in to the game and in the games we were playing we were going very well as well. So no, we didn’t see that coming in terms of being flat. But they got a couple of scores on the board very, very quickly and they got a foothold in the game.
“We’re bitterly disappointed but at the end of the day someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose, and Monaghan were the better team.”