Monaghan ready to tackle the Tyrone one that got away
‘It was a game that we could have won but we didn’t get over the line,’ says Dick Clerkin
Monaghan’s Conor McManus is dragged down by Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh in last year’s All-Ireland Football quarter-final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.
Somewhere high on the list of reasons why Monaghan would like to beat Tyrone in Sunday’s Ulster football quarter-final is what happened in Croke Park last summer. Conor McManus, moving in for what might have been a decisive score for Monaghan, was hauled down by Sean Cavanagh, and the rest is championship history.
Cavanagh dragged up that thorny issue when admitting on Monday that he’d do the same again, even if it meant taking a black card, although for veteran Monaghan midfielder Dick Clerkin, that’s not reason number one: Monaghan’s motivation for winning in Clones on Sunday is based on the more general feeling that they didn’t play up to their own standards on the day in question.
“That’s definitely more to the forefront,” says Clerkin. “We’ve openly said it before, that we didn’t perform. We narrowly lost to a Tyrone team, but still feel it was a game that we could have won but we didn’t get over the line. I’ve gone on record too as saying that it took a little gloss off the Ulster final.
“But maybe if we had signed off by getting to an All-Ireland semi-final, and got moral victories, and a pat on the back, we could have taken a step back. But it’s been a driving motivation this year, that having lost to Tyrone the way we did, there’s unfinished business there. We feel we can progress further and that’s a good way to be going into the year.”
There is also the lasting feeling, says Clerkin, that their All-Ireland quarter-final last year came a little too soon after winning a first Ulster title in 25 years.
Celebration“I personally thought that two weeks was too short,” says Clerkin. “The first week there is generally an element of celebration and recovery. You only have one week then in terms of preparation so it would have been nice to get another week, there’s no doubt about it. The hype around the county might have died down and the hype and euphoria in the team might have died down, too. But you are clutching at straws looking for those excuses. Other teams have got over that two-week window no problem.”
He turns 33 in October, but Clerkin will still play a key role on Sunday – whether starting or off the bench – particularly with McManus almost certain to miss out with an ankle injury: “Conor will know himself whether he is fit to play at all. You learn over the years that there is always going to be somebody carrying knocks or injuries. We have to plan with or without him.”