Conor McManus happy with ‘progressive’ Monaghan club set-up
County stars will play in nine of 18 league fixtures, worth five points rather than two
Conor McManus at the launch of the GAA Super Games Centre, in partnership with Sky Sports. Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
A creative blueprint which is in part the brainchild of former Árd Stiúrthoir Paraic Duffy means Monaghan may actually be one of the few counties strictly adhering to a ‘club first’ agenda this month.
Two-time All Star forward Conor McManus has already played two league games for Clontibret, and will play two more in April before the focus shifts back to Monaghan’s championship campaign, but they are no ordinary club games.
McManus describes them as ‘five-pointers’ and the novel format is resulting in widespread harmony.
“They have changed the league structure so clubs are now playing nine games with their county players and nine without,” he says.
“Matches played with county players are worth five points and games without are worth two. We’re the first county this was tried in.
“It’s a progressive idea by Monaghan county board, the clubs voted for it and it seems to be working out. Everyone is happy.
“Last year we had 18 league games and you would have had two or three starred games without county players, but generally we would have played in about 15 of those games.
“We would have packed about six of them into a 21-day period around this time, but instead we’re playing four five-pointers this month.
“It’s a new one, but the point is the club players will get games throughout the summer while we are away with Monaghan.”
Duffy, who stepped down from his role as the GAA’s Director General at the end of last month, was instrumental in the attempt to try something new.
“When you have someone in Paraic’s position, when you think of where he’s been and what he’s done over the last few years, he has been a good sounding board for the county.
“He is a good man to bounce things off and he would all the time be trying to come up with solutions to problems, because this time of year is always difficult regardless.”
Now regarded as an established Division One side and with four All-Ireland quarter-final appearances in five years under Malachy O’Rourke, Monaghan should have every confidence of advancing to the inaugural Super 8s.
An opening round Ulster championship showdown with provincial champions Tyrone in Omagh on May 20th is an obvious stumbling block, and the outcome of that game will determine the direction of their summer.
McManus concedes: “Your targets will change on the basis of that result.
“It’s the same for Galway and Mayo, whoever loses it’s a long road from there to the Super 8s and then when you get there, you have three weeks on the bounce.
“So it’s certainly a challenge and will challenge panels to the max but I think the way most teams approach the league, in terms of getting as many games into players as possible and making use of their panels, will help in that regard.”
Even though they are two-time Ulster champions in this decade, Monaghan’s best results against the best sides have come in the league.
Wins over the likes of Kerry and Dublin are part of the reason they will enjoy top-flight football next season for a fourth year in a row, yet they have struggled to replicate that sort of competitiveness in the summer, particularly in Croke Park.
The Super 8’s, with its condensed league-type format, might suit them down to the ground.
“It’ll be the exact same as the league when you have games week in week out, and that has been our best competition this last number of years.
“I think the league has been the best competition in the country because the best teams are playing each other week in week out.
“Not just in Monaghan, but if you’re lucky enough to get on a run and games are coming thick and fast I don’t think you’ll hear anyone complaining.”
GAA star Conor McManus was at the Monaghan County Training Grounds in Cloghan to launch the GAA Super Games Centre in partnership with Sky Sports.