Monaghan savouring the sweet taste of success
Celebrations continuing around the county as All-Ireland champions Donegal prepare for their qualifier against Laois
Monaghan’s Vincent Corey put the shackles on Donegal danger man Michael Murphy in Sunday’s Ulster senior football final at Clones. Photo: William Cherry/Inpho/Presseye
The latest seismic shift in fortunes and jolting realignment of the championship has left both Monaghan and Donegal with unexpectedly immediate challenges – although of a very different sort.
Monaghan’s first Ulster football title since 1988 may have been won on home ground at Clones, but that didn’t stop them organising an impromptu homecoming. Starting with a civic reception in Monaghan town last night, the Anglo-Celt Cup was paraded around the county with stop-offs that included Castleblaney and Ballybay and it could be a while before manager Malachy O’Rourke restores some sense of calm ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final in a fortnight. .
Donegal however have no time to lose and have already begun the six-day countdown to their fourth round qualifier against Laois, confirmed for Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday evening (5.0). Manager Jim McGuinness will almost certainly be without Mark McHugh due to the suspected concussion he sustained early on in Sunday’s 0-13 to 0-7 defeat, and McHugh’s absence may well prove every bit as glaring as it did against Monaghan.
All recent beaten Ulster finalists also have a poor record when it comes to playing the fourth round of the qualifiers just six days after losing their provincial final. Congress has agreed that from next year such teams will, wherever possible, be given 13 days before playing again in the qualifiers, and while Down did survive for another day after losing last year’s final, that bucked the trend, and Donegal will be acutely aware of it.
Donegal have never played Laois in the championship before either. Laois are looking to record their eighth successive qualifier win and book a place in an All-Ireland quarter-final for a second successive year.
For Monaghan there is at least some time to soak up the glorious aftermath of Sunday’s victory, and for veterans such as Dick Clerkin and Paul Finlay it’s been so long coming that they often wondered would it ever come at all.
Clerkin, unbeknownst to almost everyone except himself, actually made his 150th appearance for Monaghan on Sunday – although he’s a little more open to talk about it now.
“Yeah, I didn’t want to say anything going into the game, in case I didn’t even get a run, but I would never have thought that landmark would have gone so well,” says Clerkin.
Yet like most of Monaghan’s so-called veterans, he’s looked into that lonely mirror often in the past and wondered had the time come to move on.
“Especially after last year, and how things had gone since 2010. But even the most optimistic of Monaghan supporters would never think that this could be achieved, and the fashion in which we did against the All-Ireland champions.