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Malachy O'Rourke stays defiant in face of Donegal's financial power

By Declan Bogue

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke has admitted that preparing a team to face Donegal in the Ulster final has its difficulties, exacerbated by the support network that the All-Ireland champions enjoy.

Drawing comparisons with their own preparations ahead of this year's Championship, O'Rourke commented: "The first round of the Championship, we spent a night down in Johnstown House.

"I know Donegal had been there for five nights that week. They spent the weekend before the match in a hotel, so the resources that they are able to tap into are exceptional as well so that obviously helps."

He continued: "The whole package they have got has certainly brought it to a level where a lot of counties are trying to match, but it's very hard to match it."

If Donegal enjoy healthy financial backing, that is only natural for those that climb the steps of the Hogan Stand to accept All-Ireland titles.

The corporate sector immediately wish to be identified with success on this scale and donations are of course easier to come by.

The first indication we witnessed of this in Donegal was for the Ulster final of 2011, when the county board could not foot the bill for an overnight stay in the Slieve Russell Hotel, the night before they beat Derry.

Tension already existed between management and county board over the staging of club fixtures between the Ulster semi-final and final and without the support of the board, other means came forward to help the team, with an English-based benefactor picking up the tab.

O'Rourke also expressed his admiration of the job the Donegal management team have performed.

He is of course, well acquainted with Rory Gallagher after he played for Fermanagh in O'Rourke's final season.

After securing the All-Ireland club title with St Gall's, Gallagher was back in action for the next weekend of the National league.

"Jim (McGuinness) and Rory are two very strong thinkers on the game and know their football inside out," said O'Rourke.

"That's obvious from watching their teams and what they have achieved so far."

When asked if they are the ultimate test for a coach he replied: "I suppose they have brought the game to a different level.

"They have approached the game in a different way and it has been very successful and they have put a lot of thought into it.

"There's no doubt it's a massive challenge and in fairness, they probably have brought it to a new level in regards to preparation as well."

The manner in which they shrugged off criticism following their win over Antrim in 2011 also met O'Rourke's approval.

"It's like everything else, you have to have the courage of your convictions to stick at what they were doing," he added.

"They have proven themselves to be right, they have shown themselves to be an exceptional team."

Monaghan's two games so far in the Ulster Championship have produced patchy performances, something O'Rourke is keen to address when he concludes: "You don't need me to tell you that if we play the way we have done so far in Championship football, it is going to be a very, very tough game.

"We are hoping we can produce our best performance of the Championship so far, and that can make us competitive."

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