Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Monaghan let their football do the talking

Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay, St TiernachÕs Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan 6/7/2014 
Armagh vs Monaghan  
Armagh manager Paul Grimley and Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke shake hands at the final whistle
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Russell Pritchard
Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay, St TiernachÕs Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan 6/7/2014 Armagh vs Monaghan Armagh manager Paul Grimley and Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke shake hands at the final whistle Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Russell Pritchard

Let's get first things first; Armagh. Andy Mallon was asked if the players were allowed to speak to the Press. He replied: "No." Fair enough.

Manager Paul Grimley exited shortly afterwards and, when approached for a word to the Press pack gathered outside their dressing room door, replied: "I have nothing to say, even if I wanted to."

Ok. That's that. Over to Monaghan.

While their defence took a bit of a peppering last week, Malachy O'Rourke wasn't about to take a knife to the team sheet. Instead, he made a tactical switch of starting Paul Finlay for Kieran Duffy, produced roughly similar match-ups and allowed the rearguard to redeem themselves.

"The fellas got a fair bit of criticism after last week but we had confidence in them," said the St Joseph's Enniskillen schoolteacher.

"The defence has been the bedrock of the team this last couple of years and we weren't going to shuffle boys about. We just felt they didn't have their best day last week but we had every confidence in them going out and to a fair degree they shut the Armagh forwards out.

"In Championship football you can't expect to be on top all the time. But we upped our work-rate and our intensity.

"We got a lot more men around the man with the ball so it was great, it was a much better performance."

If it was all about workrate, then the Championship would be a hell of a lot more democratic. O'Rourke paid tribute to the quick-thinking and daring that led to Conor McManus' goal.

"It doesn't always work like that and a lot of times, there are a lot of defenders back and you can't always do it like that. But it's just trying to move the ball at pace. Not taking too much out of it and so on.

"Last week we might have been a wee touch off and that might be the difference in delivering a good performance and not. In fairness, Armagh played well last week and we take nothing away from them."

And they did it all without Kieran Hughes for the second half, who was taken off at half-time through injury.

"Kieran was struggling with his knee since the Tyrone game," O'Rourke revealed.

"The first half he was struggling big time with him and at half-time we thought we could either risk him but if we would have got through to the final he would have missed that, he would have missed next weekend, whatever the case was.

"We just thought there was no point keeping an injured man on the field when we had players mad keen to get in and the decision was made."

So, onto Donegal in the Ulster final, and an early judgment on how much relevance last year's final has to this?

"Donegal have a lot of hurt from last year, they probably have a lot of hurt from the league final as well. I can't talk for Donegal, I am sure they will be coming in and mad keen to get a big performance. We are just glad to be there and we will prepare as well as we can for it."

Still, as O'Rourke agreed, they look a different beast nowadays.

"I was very impressed with them against Derry, they shut out Derry completely," he said.

"They seem to have a great hunger, a great workrate, they were very efficient again in the second half against Antrim so we know it is going to be a massive challenge.

"Donegal had a bit of an off-year last year but people forget that Donegal were All-Ireland champions two years ago, they won two Ulster finals, were beaten in another and now they are back again. There is a serious pedigree there. It is going to be a serious challenge to us but that's what you play football for."

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