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Eoin Lennon laughs off claims the Red Hands are losing their hunger

By John Campbell

At a time when most players are beginning to wind down, Eoin Lennon happily confesses that his enthusiasm for county football has seldom been higher.

The 30-year-old Monaghan midfield ace is impatiently counting down the hours to Sunday's championship engagement with Tyrone at Healy Park, Omagh as he sets his sights on overturning last year's Ulster final defeat.

"I have had problems with injuries in the past which disrupted my career with Monaghan and as well as this I was in Liverpool for a couple of year doing a post-graduate course so I was not involved with Monaghan as much as I would liked to have been," said Lennon.

"But I am more than happy to be part of this present Monaghan side and to be facing Tyrone."

The midfield dynamo rubbishes the theory that Tyrone are no longer a formidable force and do not possess quite the same hunger for success. "I don't buy into that at all. To my mind Tyrone are still very hard to beat. People seem to forget that this is an away match for us and as such it will be doubly difficult," insists Lennon.

If the recent National League ended in disappointment for Monaghan with relegation to Division Two, Lennon is not wringing his hands in despair.

"On the contrary, I think there are positives to be taken from our league campaign," he added.

"There are about six or seven players who have come into our side and done very well. They will certainly have gained valuable experience for the championship so that will surely be a big plus-factor. I think some of these guys are very good players and I believe further proof of this will be furnished come Sunday."

His assessment that Monaghan played well in certain matches in the leagues certainly stands up to scrutiny - they lost to both Dublin and Armagh by just a point and only went under to All-Ireland champions Cork by three points having stayed on their shoulder for the greater part of that game.

"We will need to maintain our momentum for the entire game against Tyrone and this will not be easy," admits Lennon.

"They are the reigning champions, they are more experienced and they are at home so there are a lot of things weighing in their favour. It is going to be very tough for us." Ten years in the Monaghan squad have hardened him to the demands and pressures of inter-county football but "time has flown", according to Lennon.

"When you come into the side you think you are a young gun and that you are going to stay that way," he added. "But suddenly you are forced to look at yourself as an old hand. The time has flown and the game has changed but our attitude and approach must be right."

Along with Dessie Mone, Paul Finlay, Conor McManus, Darren Hughes and Dick Clerkin he helps to provide the admittedly modest core of experience in the Monaghan side and is preparing to shoulder his share of the responsibility against the Red Hands.

"I think this is a match in which the older players will have to set a lead," said Lennon. "We have that couple of years on the other lads and we have to show this."

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