Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Farney shape up to conquer Dublin

Hughes believes Monaghan have more to offer

Big step: Darren Hughes is happy with progress made
Big step: Darren Hughes is happy with progress made

Funny how history repeats itself. Three years previously, a different 'outside' Kildare manager was answering questions about pre-game comments made in relation to an Ulster sides' gamesmanship, after a loss.

In 2011, it was Kieran McGeeney, after comments appeared in the media on the morning of their extra-time loss to Donegal, suggesting they were skilled at cynical fouling.

This time, the game went to extra-time again, and Jason Ryan had to answer the charge that he claimed Monaghan captain Conor McManus was: "Probably the number one free-winner in the country."

Hard to know if that comment went against in the end. McManus ended up being fouled eight times, he hit five frees over himself, while Paul Finlay speared four frees from the right-hand side.

Asked about it afterwards, and in particular the free awarded to McManus in the dying seconds of normal time that yielded the equaliser to take this slugfest into extra-time, Ryan deflected, saying: "Every free that we concede I never think it's a free so I'm biased. It's not until you look back on it that you see it.

"The referee has the best view, he's closest to it. At such a late stage in the game for it to happen, it's really, really tough."

Kildare's propaganda stunt had an effect on Monaghan, for sure.

While Ryan went on to make the sensible point that the period of extra-time and the exertions within it might count for Monaghan in the forthcoming All-Ireland quarter-final, Darren Hughes responded, grinning: "Not his problem! We'll worry about that."

As the Monaghan players filed out of the dressing rooms, it was a picture of exhaustion.

Dick Clerkin was on crutches. The Currin midfielder was taken off at half-time but when he went to warm up for re-introduction in extra-time he felt something was clearly wrong.

Early indications were that he may have broken a tibia bone, but a scan revealed it to be bruising on the bone.

Monaghan now have Dublin, the unstoppable Dublin, in a bill-topping Saturday night spectacular. Ulster finals are one thing, but playing in front of an expected crowd of 65,000 in Croke Park is another dream that Monaghan's players are about to enter.

"It's not something I have even thought about," said Hughes. "It hasn't even sunk in. It was about getting through."

He continued: "Obviously (we are) physically drained after it; it was a tough game. Kildare put it up to us and we had to battle back numerous times but we'll move forward and get ready for next week."

Quizzed if the prospect of having only seven days was not enough to recuperate and prepare for Dublin, he laughed: "You're in an All-Ireland quarter-final; you're not going to start complaining. It's a great place to be. We're in a good place; it's our fault we didn't win an Ulster final."

Yesterday, the bookmakers were not holding out much hope for Monaghan. Dublin were priced 1/16 favourites.

It undoubtedly gives Monaghan a motivation and Hughes certainly wasn't going to strip them of that when he gushed: "They're All-Ireland champions on merit.

"They have great players and a great bench. We'll sit down and analyse it."

One league Sunday back in 2008, Monaghan gave Dublin a good battle in Parnell Park. Tommy Freeman was even head-butted at the final whistle by a member of the Dublin backroom team and it might have been that incident Hughes had in mind when he added: "We've always put it up to them. They've great players at their disposal but we haven't really looked at them.

"Our target at the start of the year was to get back to Croke Park and we're there. We'll prepare ourselves as best as possible for it."

Right now, Monaghan's priority is recovery. Some players had compression tights on as they boarded the team bus. Big bottles of fluids were everywhere.

"A six-day turnaround is just about getting the bodies right," explained Hughes.

"It's about getting the physical shape back and mentally knowing what you're coming up against."

Last Monday in the same venue, Hughes claimed that Monaghan targeted promotion and progression. He is holding firm against patting himself on the back yet.

"It was something we wanted to do and I suppose winning was a big step for us.

"When you're down to the last eight in an All-Ireland you're never going to get an easy draw. I suppose time will tell next Saturday."

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