Monaghan out to break championship hoodoo at Croke Park

Darren Hughes confident they can bounce back from Donegal defeat in Ulster final

Monaghan midfielder Darren Hughes: “Now we’ve the chance to get back, win that championship game in Croke Park; we’ll be putting our best foot forward.” Photograph:  Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Monaghan midfielder Darren Hughes: “Now we’ve the chance to get back, win that championship game in Croke Park; we’ll be putting our best foot forward.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 01:00

In the 84 years since they beat Kildare in the 1930 All-Ireland semi-final a lot of Monaghan footballers have been left thinking about what it would mean to win a championship match in Croke Park.

Now, with Kildare lined up for tomorrow evening’s qualifier at Croke Park, some Monaghan players may be thinking now is their time.

But they can’t think too hard about it, nor the idea that a win would set up a crack at Dublin, but such is the weight and wait of it all it has to be at the forefront of their minds.

At stake

“Yeah, we know what’s at stake,” said Monaghan midfielder Darren Hughes in Croke Park this week ahead of tomorrow’s ’s game (7pm).

“It is a season-ending game if you don’t win it, and we just feel, as a team, that we’ve put a lot of work in.

“We know Kildare didn’t play well against Meath in the semi-final, but they got a run together in the backdoor again, for the umpteenth year.

“They’re no bad team and they’ll thrive in the big spaces of Croke Park and we know we’ll be up against it.”

It probably won’t be as low-scoring as their 1930 semi-final, when Monaghan scored 1-6 to Kildare’s 1-4, and there is a genuine belief that Monaghan didn’t play their best football in the Ulster final defeat to Donegal last Sunday week. The first task was to pick themselves up.

“It was difficult,” says Hughes. “We’ve had the experience of losing Ulster finals before, and having to get back in the saddle. But in this scenario we have had two weeks to prepare, whereas in previous years we only had six days.

“Physically, you can’t really be ready for a game in six days.

“We have had time now, met and talked about, and assessed, what went wrong against Donegal.

“But we kind of knew ourselves where it went wrong. It was a disappointing performance all round. In fairness, Donegal were very good on the day, but things that we talked about and tried to implement, we didn’t do it. We went off the game plan in a sense and that was the disappointing factor in not performing to our full capabilities on the day.

“At times we kicked the ball when we shouldn’t have been kicking it. Or carrying it into tackles. You have to give credit to Donegal, they put the pressure on us in certain areas and we had to expect that.

Ferocious intensity

“We talked about it but we didn’t work around it on the day. Donegal brought a ferocious intensity to the game.

“We were well-prepared for that from our previous championship games, but we just fell short and it was disappointing after we put in the work to beat Tyrone and Armagh, which were big lifts for us.

“We had never beaten Tyrone in the championship and it was a big hurdle for us to get over. So we still have the confidence we can bounce back. No doubt about it.

“Now we’ve the chance to get back, win that championship game in Croke Park; we’ll be putting our best foot forward.”

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