Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Clerkin hoping history will repeat itself

Having already secured promotion back to division two, Monaghan veteran Dick Clerkin is targeting the reversal of a miserable sequence of results at Croke Park. The fact that they face Meath in the Division Three final on Saturday offers symmetry.

"The last time we won at Croke Park," the midfielder reminds us, "was when we beat Meath in the corresponding fixture in 2005. We have been there six times since and lost all, albeit against stellar opposition.

"We want to get back and win a game at Croke Park – that was a target I had set and a lot of players would recognise it."

To illustrate how the GAA and Monaghan ambitions have changed since that afternoon in 2005, once the ball dropped fortuitously into the Meath net in the closing stages – gifting Monaghan victory – the pitch was swamped by delirious Oriel fans. Fans celebrating with the team is now a thing of the past, as is Monaghan fans getting emotional over league football.

As if to prove the point, Clerkin adds, "If you want to get back there in August, you want to have a win under your belt as opposed to having a bad run there."

Monaghan's year slumming it began with a massive home win over Meath; 1-18 to 2-3, with a late Conor Gillespie goal for Meath taking the horrific look off their scoreline, if not the result.

To imagine such an outcome again would be entirely fanciful, believes Clerkin.

"They were putrid, by their own admission," he added.

"They didn't look fit and they were very timid. When you see how they performed in the latter half of the league from how they started the league, they obviously made vast improvements and got personnel back; the likes of Graham Reilly, Stephen Bray, Kevin Reilly.

"They all came back and strengthened the side, boys got more game time and match fitness and they improved.

"Because they really were the worst team we played against in the league, yet they were the second-best team in the league overall. You can read into that, that we would be paying absolutely no heed to the game we played."

The previous clash had nothing in common with the usual derby matches, and Saturday's game will have a very different complexion.

In the meantime, Monaghan's long-term goal has been to establish a greater consistency.

"You are going to have your good spells and your bad spells but it seemed to be elevated to a whole new level with us at times. We looked like a Rolls Royce Division One team at times, the next thing playing like a junior club team.

"We still have a lot to do, but I think we have made strides in that sense," he concludes.

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