Malachy O’Rourke knows Monaghan face challenge ahead of qualifiers
Defeat last year to Longford ended the summer campaign earlier than expected
Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke. Photograph: Philip Magowan/Inpho/Presseye
Every manager talks about the challenge of lifting their team again after a championship defeat and ahead of the qualifiers. Only for Malachy O’Rourke that task has possibly been made a little easier.
Monaghan’s two-point defeat to Down in Saturday’s Ulster semi-final certainly left them with plenty to improve on. It was also confirmed that four players, the Ballybay Pearse Brothers contingent of Drew and Ryan Wylie, Dessie Ward and Thomas Kerr, were involved in a single-car accident earlier on Saturday afternoon, en route to joining up with the team bus in Monaghan town.
All four escaped unscathed, the Wylie brothers lining out at full back and left corner back respectively, while Ward featured as a second-half substitute. They were hardly ideal preparation nonetheless.
Also still fresh in O’Rourke’s memory is Monaghan’s qualifier experience of last year – when one week after their Ulster semi-final defeat to Donegal, by a single point, their summer was ended by outsiders Longford, despite having home advantage in Clones.
Now, the 2017 qualifier draw has pitted them against Wexford, the team managed by former Monaghan manager Séamus “Banty” McEnaney. O’Rourke does have an extra week to prepare this time, that game scheduled for Saturday week, July 8th, only they will be away from home comforts, the game set for Wexford Park.
McEnaney previously managed his native Monaghan, from 2004-2010, then did two years with Meath, before taking charge of Wexford this season. His side were beaten by Carlow in the first round of the Leinster championship, but came through against Waterford on Saturday evening.
“Last year, we didn’t do a great job of it,” admitted O’Rourke. “After losing to Donegal, and the next day out, Longford turned us over. That’s what can happen if you don’t hit the ground running, so we’ll have to try regroup, and see can we put in a better performance this year.
“There are a lot of different variables, but at this stage, we just have to get our head around it. That’s the first thing. We were still hoping to get through to an Ulster final, so no doubt that is a big blow. And there’s no point saying any different. It’s hard to take, it will be hard to get the boys lifted, but look, that’s part of our job.”
Westmeath, who endured a record defeat to Dublin in the Leinster semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday, will welcome Armagh; Carlow have been rewarded with a home tie against Leitrim while Cavan, who defeated Offaly on Sunday, will take on Tipperary.
ALL-IRELAND QUALIFIERS – ROUND 2A
Saturday July 1st
Laois v Clare, Portlaoise, 3.0
Mayo v Derry, MacHale Park, 5.0 (Live RTÉ)
Donegal v Longford, Ballybofey, 5.0
Meath v Sligo, Páirc Tailteann, 6.0
Saturday, July 8th
Cavan v Tipperary, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2.0
Wexford v Monaghan, Innovate Wexford Park, 3.0
Carlow v Leitrim, Netwatch Dr Cullen Park, 3.
Westmeath v Armagh, TEG Cusack Park, 7.0