Finlay shows heart to finish on a high
Paul Finlay may have suffered a setback earlier this year when a heart complaint not only threw his involvement in the Ulster championship into jeopardy but actually threatened his career in Monaghan's colours.
There was concern and apprehension as Finlay, son of former Monaghan star Ciaran 'Jap' Finlay, underwent tests and put his sporting itinerary on hold.
But today the cultured Monaghan forward - he's also the team's very accomplished free-taker - is looking forward to garnering honours with the Farney county in 2008.
"We are focussed on getting our Dr McKenna Cup campaign off on the right foot," says Finlay, "We have been drawn in Group C with Antrim, Cavan and Queen's and obviously our clash with neighbours Cavan will be very much in the nature of a derby battle. But a game like this will help to sharpen us all up at such an early stage of the season."
While Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney awaits the outcome of the disciplinary process that could yet see suspensions confirmed on the Freeman brothers Damien and Tommy, he is nonethelss philisophical.
"Whartever happens, hapens - it's unlikley that we will be able to alter the course that things might take," observes McEnaney.
The Freeman duo were in the dock following the fracas that marked their club Magheracloon'e match with Latton recently and it is quite possible that both could be hit with heavy penalties.
Damien captined Monaghan this year while Tommy not only gained an Allstar but was voted the Ulster Player of the Year by the Tennent's Ulster GAA Writers Association.
If both are ruled out of the Gaelic Life Dr McKenna Cup and the National League, Monaghan could face and early struggle.
However, the fact that players such as Paul Finlay and Dick Clerkin will be in the vanguard of Monaghan's bid to try and stop Tyrone from winning the McKenna Cup for the fifth time on the trot will bolster their chances.
Finlay himself, who played some of his best football in a Monaghan jersey shortly after he was given the all-clear by his doctors, is hoping that Monaghan can make even more progerss than they did last year.
"Obviously the bar has been raised in terms of expectations. We know that to do ourselves justice this year we will have to maybe get silverware of some description - although we all know the trophy that we would really like," smiles Finlay.
Manager McEnaney admitted this week that, far from being the highlight of his career to date, Monaghan's gallant one-point defeat by Kerry back in August was one of the most agonising experiences of his career.
"It was total devastation," said McEnaney, "I honestly thought that we would have taken them but it was not to be. While we came close, they just had the experience to close the game out and leave us feeling totally frustrated."