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Monaghan must rally after opening scare, warns Finlay

By John Campbell

Long-serving utility player Paul Finlay believes that the scare which Monaghan suffered in their opening Allianz League Division Two clash against Down last Sunday could ultimately prove a blessing in disguise.

The Ulster champions saw their seven-point lead wiped out as James McCartan's side dominated the second-half and indeed came within a whisker of collecting both points.

Monaghan, forced to settle for a draw after lording matters throughout the first-half chiefly because of Finlay's aerial power at midfield, must now confront a rapidly improving Meath this weekend conscious that nothing less than victory will sustain their push for Division One status.

Even before confronting Down, Finlay, now in his 11th season with Monaghan, had predicted that the team was embarking on a "savage Division Two" in which league points would be difficult to amass.

"We know for sure now that we are in a savage environment. There are a lot of good teams in Division Two. But we'll take the positives out of our McKenna Cup run and the fact that we played so well for part of last Sunday's game and see where this takes us," says the veteran playmaker.

Monaghan lost to neighbours Cavan in a tingling McKenna Cup semi-final, Finlay having previously racked up his 500th competitive point for his county in the third round win over Fermanagh.

While Monaghan have undoubtedly gained fresh respect since winning the Ulster title last year, Finlay accepts that they still have much work to do.

"When you win an Ulster title it gives you confidence, but the main thing for us this year is to try and improve.

"There are tougher tests ahead of us beginning with Meath this weekend. All the teams in Division Two are intent on reaching Division One," adds Finlay.

"The matches will be hugely competitive as I think there is very little separating all the teams in terms of ability and fitness levels."

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