Malachy O'Rourke expected final showdown with Donegal
Malachy O'Rourke is not in the least surprised that his Monaghan side will again be crossing swords with Donegal in the Ulster final on Sunday.
This will be the third year on the trot that the teams will be meeting in the provincial showpiece fixture and far from subscribing to the perception that Rory Gallagher's side is an 'ageing' unit, O'Rourke suggests that they are currently as strong as ever.
"Our aim at the outset of the Championship was to try and make our way through to the Ulster final and we have achieved that," states Enniskillen schoolteacher O'Rourke. "Whoever we were going to meet was always immaterial to us.
"The fact that it is Donegal again does not surprise me in the least as we always felt there was a good chance it would be Rory Gallagher's side.
"The strength they have been showing this last number of years, their experience, the quality of players they have and so on made them strong candidates to reach this final.
"It will be a good challenge for us. We have played them over this past two finals, we won in 2013 and they won last year, so we looking forward to meeting them once again."
The Donegal side may be laden with gnarled veterans - Neil Gallagher, Karl Lacey, Christy Toye, Anthony Thompson, the McGee brothers Neil and Eamon, Paul Durcan and Colm McFadden all come into this category - but far from viewing the side as vulnerable because of this, O'Rourke sees them as an even bigger threat.
"In last year's final we felt that we did not play as well as we can but the fact that the two teams have got through to a third final in a row speaks for itself," stresses O'Rourke. "It all comes down to who puts in the best performance on the day."
O'Rourke admits that in his team's Championship games against Cavan and Fermanagh to date there were "a lot of areas in which we need to improve."
It was only courtesy of late scoring flurry from skipper Conor McManus that Monaghan managed to hurdle a defiant Fermanagh at the semi-final stage and O'Rourke is hoping that his team will have absorbed lessons from this.
"I thought that in the game against Armagh we really saw Donegal at their best. It was a complete performance and we for our part have been working on areas of our game in which we need to improve," says O'Rourke.
"We are expecting Donegal to put in a massive performance in this final. And this means that for our part we have to be at our very best if we want to seriously challenge them."