Donegal are seeking revenge, warns Drew Wylie
When Monaghan beat Donegal in last year's Ulster final, Drew Wylie played a big part in curbing the then Ulster champions' much-vaunted attack.
Wylie's marking, covering and distribution were such that Jim McGuinness' side became increasingly frustrated to the extent that skipper Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty ended up scoreless – a rare occurrence indeed.
It was left to Colm McFadden to pilfer a few points and the fact that he was the only forward to get his name on the score sheet spoke volumes for the efficiency of the Monaghan rearguard.
But 25-year-old Wylie recognises that for tomorrow's Division Two league decider at Croke Park, Donegal will harbour what he describes as "a fierce desire" for scores.
"Obviously they did not take too kindly to being robbed of a third consecutive Ulster title last year and so they will want to avenge that result tomorrow," points out ESB employee Wylie.
"We will need to be on our toes from the word go.
"Competition for places in our side is keener than ever and training has been tough but we will be all the better for that. Donegal will have a fierce desire for scores and we will have to minimise that."
Wylie did not play in the Power NI McKenna Cup as he was travelling in Australia during January, only returning to his familiar slot in defence when the league started.
Since then he has been an ever-present in the side and sees tomorrow's game as Monaghan's biggest challenge since they lost to Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-finals last year.
"Donegal have been taking the league much more seriously this year. They did not really get into their stride in 2013 but they are keen to make up lost ground now," insists Wylie.
Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke, having absorbed lessons from his team's loss to Donegal earlier in the league, has tweaked his defensive set-up for tomorrow with a view to curbing the triple threat posed by McBrearty, Murphy and McFadden.
Whether this measure proves a success will depend on Monaghan's ability to gain a foothold through Paul Finlay and Owen Lennon in midfield and prevent a supply of possession reaching the Donegal inside men and will also hinge on players' ability to maintain their man-marking roles.
"You can't afford to give Donegal time and space otherwise they will punish you," asserts Wylie.
His brother Ryan is among the substitutes for tomorrow's game while another brother, Brent, is a talented club player.
Wylie will line out alongside experienced duo Vinny Corey and Dessie Mone in a Monaghan defence which will certainly miss the authoritative presence of the injured Colin Walshe.
Up front Conor McManus, Chris McGuinness and Jack McCarron will shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for garnering scores with McManus in particular expected to make a bountiful return even though on his own admission he is still "managing" a hip injury which kept him out of action for a spell.
"We know that Donegal are always difficult to play against because of their defensive strategy but the challenge for us will be to break them down," declares a determined McManus.
That will not be easily achieved given Donegal's defiant streak which has underpinned their march into the divisional final and suggests that they could terminate their campaign on a high note.
Monaghan: R Beggan; O Duffy, D Wylie, F Kelly; D Mone, V Corey, K O'Connell; O Lennon, P Finlay; K Hughes, S Gollogly, C McGuinness; D Malone, J McCarron, C McManus.
Donegal: P Durcan; E McGee, N McGee, K Lacey; F McGlynn, L McLoone, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, M McElhinney; C Toye, R McHugh, O MacNiallais; C McFadden, M Murphy, P McBrearty.