Mournemen won't catch Monaghan cold again, says Steven Poacher
Steven Poacher believes that the test his Carlow side served up to Monaghan in Round 3 of the All-Ireland qualifiers will be enough to give Malachy O'Rourke's men the edge when they meet his native Down for the second time in this summer's Championship.
Down pulled off one of the shocks of the season in June when they dumped Monaghan out of Ulster, but that surprise would have been utterly outstripped almost a fortnight ago had Carlow been able to capitalise on the position they got themselves into against the Oriels, two points clear with 16 minutes remaining.
That test, held up against the Mournemen's heavy defeat to Tyrone in the Ulster final, gives Monaghan a better chance of victory tomorrow, maintains Newry man Poacher.
"I think we did ask a few questions of them, not just physically but mentally as well," he said of Carlow's stubborn resistance.
"I think the crowd and the atmosphere that was created that night will stand to Monaghan. It was an encounter that they came out on the right side of, whereas the game against Wexford and the scoreline, I don't think they would have learned much."
As a former coach of the Down Under-21 side of 2010 and current Ballyholland manager, Poacher is intimately acquainted with several of the Mourne senior team, but wonders what damage the Ulster final has done, along with the enormous motivation Monaghan have for avenging the previous defeat.
"It is very difficult for a team to lift themselves after a defeat and I have to say that if Down do manage to lift themselves and win the game, it would be a monumental victory for them. I would think it a phenomenal achievement to do that twice in the one year to a team of Monaghan's calibre," he said.
Looking back at that shock in the Athletic Grounds, the St Columbans, Kilkeel teacher recalled: "I suppose the first thing is that Down got a lot of men behind the ball early on.
"And what helped them was the fact they got the break just after half-time. They obviously squeezed Rory Beggan's kickouts very well on different occasions and they won the penalty that gave them a comfortable buffer at that stage.
"It gave Down something to cling to and hold onto. If you are asking me if Down played Monaghan again 10 times based on form and what's happened over the last couple of years, Monaghan would win nine of them.
"I don't think they are going to learn an awful lot more than they already know. Down have to play defensively on Saturday because if they don't, it could be a long evening for them."
While Carlow enjoyed their longest summer in almost a century, picking up three Championship wins and two credible defeats to Dublin and Monaghan, Poacher now turns his focus to managing Ballyholland, and sees himself back on the banks of the Barrow River in 2018.
"We are meeting up next Monday night to review the season," he revealed.
"The squad really clicked this year, there is a great camaraderie among the panel and I suppose as the summer went on the group grew even closer.
"I am very fortunate myself in that unlike a lot of inter-county coaches, I have another coaching job to go to, which is Ballyholland seniors. We are coming into the business end of our Championship in three weeks' time.
"It was difficult for me to lift myself at the start of the last week because there was a huge void. I have never actually felt a void like it. It was a massive downer."
As for this weekend's game, he cautioned: "From Down's perspective, they are obviously going into the game as massive underdogs. The first day when Down played Monaghan, I think one of the first things that caught people by surprise was the physicality that Down brought to the table, how they really got into Monaghan's faces and made it really very difficult for them.
"However, that surprise element is now gone. We will expect it again on Saturday from Down."