Malachy O’Rourke hails players after victory over Cavan

Monaghan manager happy to get win after Ulster Championship clash goes down to wire

If they're all that's going, Malachy O'Rourke will take one-point wins over Cavan every time. His side came through here after long spells of looking like they might not. That they won't get away with as slow a start as this later in the summer may well be true but standing on the pitch with him afterwards, it felt like a worry for another day.

"I suppose between Monaghan and Cavan there's a serious rivalry and there's an awful lot talked about it. There's an awful fear of losing and sometimes that can inhibit you as well. Cavan opened up very brightly, they were moving well and we were playing into a strong wind. Overall, we're just delighted that we got to grips with the game eventually and were able to do enough to get over the line."

Off the bench came Stephen Gollogly, Dick Clerkin, Colin Walshe and Chris McGuinness. Fair to say experience told a tale?

In trouble

“I think so. I think that played a big part. A lot of those fellas have played in a lot of championship games. They’ve been in that position a lot of times before and I suppose that as much as anything else told. When we were in trouble, experienced players held up their hand.

Dessie Mone

kicked a great score from out on the wing, we started to use the ball better. We stopped running up blind alleys and we didn’t get turned over as much.”

Onwards then to a meeting with either Antrim or Fermanagh, the drumbeat of a whole county expecting a third Ulster final on the bounce in the background all the while. Monaghan teams aren’t used to being favourites. O’Rourke is working at getting them used to it.

“All you can do is try to win them and we have been favourites in a few games. We have been underdogs in other games and have come through them, been underdogs in other games that we have lost. I don’t pass that much remarks on that tag because whether you are favourites or not, it will not kick the ball over the bar for you. It’s about focussing on the performance.

“The thing about the favourites’ tag – it’s not so much about what’s in the group, but everyone outside the group is telling you, ‘Ah, you’re going to win’. Players are only human at the end of the day and it can affect them. It’s a case now of keeping the boys away from all that talk, getting a big performance the next day.”

For Terry Hyland, it was an afternoon that got away from his Cavan side after looking promising for so long.

“Probably somewhere around the middle of the second half we lost it a bit around the middle of the field. Maybe we backed off a bit and allowed them to get scores from outside the zone. But we came back rightly in the end. It was only a one-point game.”

Cavan have a while to sit out now before the qualifiers, a delay that crippled them in 2014. Hyland though is confident they’ll be okay this time around.

Envisage “In fairness last year we lost an awful lot of players. By the time we got to the Roscommon game, I think we were down nine from the team which played Roscommon in the National League. We had a lot of fellas who went to the United States. I don’t envisage anyone going away this year that I know of so far. If we can keep all the lads around, if they can keep their heads down and work hard, they should have a good enough summer.”

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times