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Ronan Clarke on the brink of history with Monaghan Harps

By John Campbell

When Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland winner Ronan Clarke decided to throw in his lot as conditioning coach and selector with neighbouring Monaghan Harps, he did not expect to be trying to turn the tide of history.

Not since 1923 has the Monaghan town side last won the county championship title, yet thanks largely to Clarke's stamina-building programme and motivational rhetoric, the team find themselves on the cusp of an all too rare county final appearance.

Last Saturday Harps drew with fancied Clontibret in the semi-final and when the sides meet in the semi-final replay on Friday night, Clarke will take his place on the sideline with a glowing endorsement of his backroom team skills ringing in his ears.

Harps official Colm Shalvey believes that the arrival of the Pearse Og clubman from Armagh city within the Harps ranks has proven to be "an absolute God send."

Clarke has impressed from the outset, working diligently with the players and helping to inculcate a fresh sense of inner belief within their ranks.

"Ronan is doing magnificent work and this is reflected in the fact that we are now in the semi-finals," observes Shalvey.

"You could say that we were unlucky not to get a win on Saturday but we are just happy at the same time to be getting another go. Ronan has been an absolute Godsend as far as we are concerned.

"We have waited a long time to try and reach the final and hopefully we will achieve our goal.

"It would be a great fillip for football in Monaghan town if we were to book our place against Scotstown in the decider."

But Clarke concedes that Clontibret will be extremely difficult opponents in the replay.

"We will need to up our game for this one," he said.

"They have a lot of very experienced players in their side."

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