Conor McManus plays down Monaghan performance in Croke Park
Dublin probably weren’t at their best, says Monaghan forward
Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton separates Jonny Cooper and Conor McManus at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Captain Conor McManus has downplayed Monaghan’s strong performance against Dublin in Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division One semi-final and admitted they ultimately lost to a team not at its best.
McManus was named man of the match as Monaghan outscored Dublin in the second half. But the end result was still defeat as the back-to-back champions booked their place in Sunday week’s final against Cork.
McManus, who kicked eight points including five from play, said Dublin played below their normal level on the day.
“I suppose the biggest thing we have to realise is that this is league football,” said McManus. “It’s a whole different ball game going into the championship and that’s probably the biggest thing we need to take out of this.
Monaghan did at least defy expectation by running Dublin close without resorting to overly defensive tactics, like those employed by Derry and Tyrone at Croke Park this year.
Monaghan did get numbers behind the ball when necessary, particularly in the first half, but they had a strong scoring outlet in McManus and worked the ball to him at pace when possible.
“There’s been more negative talk about football than there needs to be,” said former All Star McManus. “If you look at the two semi-finals, the other one was a high enough scoring game too. Looking across both matches, there’s probably not that much wrong with Gaelic football at the minute.”
Monaghan prevented Dublin from scoring any goals and McManus admitted it was a key part of their strategy. “Definitely, they hit us for 1-2 or 1-3 early on when we played the previous week in the group,” said the Clontibret man.
“When Dublin get their tails up, they’re hard to curtail. There probably is a lesson in that.
“We wanted to keep it tight and give ourselves a chance to win the game and we did that.”