Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke defends his side’s tactics despite Dublin drubbing

‘We felt it was a plan that could frustrate them and give us a chance of winning’

Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke shakes hands with Dublin manager Jim Gavin at the end of the game at Croke Park. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke shakes hands with Dublin manager Jim Gavin at the end of the game at Croke Park. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Philly McMahon did some quick mental mapwork at the steps of the Dublin team bus on Saturday night. When the final whistle went, the nice lady from Sky Sports had come over and tapped him on the elbow to get him to come into the interview room to accept the Man of the Match award. The first such award he’s won since . . . when, Philly?

“Ever, actually. I’ve never got man of the match before. I didn’t think I got it today either. We don’t play for man of the match, we just play for the team and that was a great team effort.

“It took us a while to break them down in terms of the way they play. If we didn’t stick to the game plan maybe it would have been a different story. But I suppose the two goals helped us along. We hit them at the right time and we just accelerated on after them.”

Dublin’s winning totals have snowballed as the season has passed. They beat Laois by 11, Wexford by 16, Meath by 16 and now Monaghan by 17.

If there’s any lingering worry about what they’ll find out about themselves if and when they’re involved in a tight finish, McMahon doesn’t betray it.

Pick and choose

“Look, we can’t pick and choose our games. We come out and play our game and whatever score it is is whatever score it is. We’ve still things to improve on.

“We wouldn’t be satisfied with that result even though everybody will look at it and say, ‘Jesus, they won by a lot of points’. We’ve a lot of things to work on and that’s what we’ll do over the next three weeks.”

Like what?

“Well, I think our shot selection wasn’t great at times. We had three or four more goal chances when we didn’t take the right options. I think we need to work on that.”

That will be slim consolation to Malachy O’Rourke.

This was Monaghan’s biggest defeat in Croke Park for 35 years, since Kerry tore them limb from limb in the 1979 All Ireland semi-final. The margin was 22 points back then and as McMahon said, only poor finishing prevented a repeat here.

“They do a lot of things,” said O’Rourke. “They have pace and power. Even at the back, they usually leave their defenders isolated and we thought we would be able to get a couple of one-on-one situations but they are very physically strong.

“Their pace and power running from defence, then they have quality forwards as well. You can keep them out for so long but if you give them any space at all they will punish you.

“As I said to the boys earlier in the week, we could have gone down and went man for man and we might see how it goes, knowing in the back of our minds that it wasn’t going to stop Dublin. They would have cut through us anyway.

“So we put a plan in place that we felt was the best chance of actually winning the game. That might sound naive now when the game is over and you are beaten by so much but if you are competitive at all that’s the way you have to think and we felt it was a plan that could frustrate them and give us a chance of winning the game.

“It worked for a wee while but as the game wore on they just overpowered us.”

Reasonably satisfied

When they come to do up the end-of-year accounts, Monaghan will be reasonably satisfied with what’s in the books for 2014.

Tyrone beaten, a win in Croke Park, promotion to the top tier of league football again. When O’Rourke spoke to his players on the pitch afterwards, he made a point of accentuating the positive despite the crushing end to their season.

“After a tough defeat like that it’s often easy to forget everything that went before. That’s what I was reminding them of, the progress that we have made this year, the work that we have put in to get to Division 1, to get to an Ulster final, to win a game down in Croke Park and so on.

“So they’ve made massive strides, just obviously this wasn’t the way we wanted to finish. We wanted to, look it I know, we wanted to come down here and we wanted to put it up to Dublin and we felt we could beat them.

“That doesn’t seem realistic at this stage but that’s the way we felt.

“It’s just very disappointing and frustrating to be beaten like that, but I suppose that’s the risk you run when you play teams like Dublin who are firing on all cylinders.”

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