Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

The time has come for Monaghan's Mone to take the gloves off

Monaghan ace aiming to build after finally toppling neighbours Tyrone

Malachy O'Rourke

If ever you needed focus on your next opponents, Monaghan's Dessie Mone finds it within his own family.

His mother is from Armagh. Her maiden name is Gribben. "So there's always that wee bit of fun going into Armagh matches with the cousins and that," the Clontribret man explains, ahead of tomorrow's Ulster semi-final against the Orchard County.

The past couple of years have meant some readjustment for Mone, with success coming after a lengthy apprenticeship playing second-fiddle to neighbours Tyrone and Armagh.

In years gone by, Mone was identified as a man-marker, asked to put the clampers on the opposition's most potent inside forwards.

However, Malachy O'Rourke spotted some other qualities in him and reinvented him as an up-and-down the field attacking wing-back.

Although he is still only 29, that is a relatively advanced age for a Gaelic footballer. Players would attest to their pace starting to wane at that stage, but enthusiasm conquers all.

"The one thing I have found going into matches now is that I enjoy them more. I take the occasion in more now and try to enjoy it," says Mone.

"The Monaghan support give you more energy as you walk out onto the pitch. You try and use that for the people of Monaghan. The young lads are coming in, they have their own mindset and nothing is weighing them down. They have put the buzz back into our legs."

They are also blessed with O'Rourke, a manager who knows about managing expectation and taking the heat off his players.

After their win over Tyrone – their first at senior level in 26 years – another veteran in Dick Clerkin revealed: "Malachy said to us during the week, there's one and a half billion people in China that couldn't give a s*** about that game today. That puts things in perspective."

It was a well-worked ploy by O'Rourke. A few years back when he was in charge of Fermanagh during the 2008 run to the Ulster final, his-then sports psychologist Kieran Shannon gave that pearl of wisdom to him.

It originally was a quote from University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, about "Two billion Chinese who don't know we're playing," adopted with some Monaghan vernacular.

It meant Mone and others could play without the weight of expectation. With the frantic on-pitch switches going on, they had enough to concentrate on.

"That's the way the game has gone, it's gone very tactical," Mone says.

"That's about being disciplined, not just on the training pitch, but outside of the training pitch.

"It shows when you have put the hard work in at the training sessions and you are working on things."

And the theory of one side becoming a 'bogey' team for others holds no weight with Mone.

On their abysmal record against the Red Hands: "That wasn't in my mind whatsoever," Mone laughs.

"I don't think I had beaten them in a league match even," he explains.

"Going back to minor level, I have never beaten them. It is always at the back of your mind, that you need to dig deep and the last 10 minutes is going to be important."

Given the level of preparation by elite counties now, it safeguards against the notion that and one side is unbeatable due to their historical record.

"I think the game has evolved that much, that it's moved away from that because every team is at the same level, every team has got faster and fitter. That's the way it's gone at the minute."

Training under the highly-rated Ryan Porter, Monaghan have been able to chalk off much of what the group would have had in their wishlist.

An Ulster title was first, yet in the All-Ireland quarter final of last year, the record of Tyrone over Monaghan counted for something.

A couple of weeks ago, they finally overcame their neighbours, but Mone was quick to put that achievement in context.

"There was always that big rivalry between us and Tyrone, they always had the better of us in recent encounters," he adds.

"We knew going into the game it wasn't going to be easy, it was a game that came down to the last 10 minutes and thankfully we came out on the right side.

"Again, we could have lost it, we made a lot of mistakes in the second half and we made a lot of mistakes in the first half and we need to improve it.

"Games against Tyrone are always intense, it was probably one that we needed that win.

"It's just a box ticked, there's a lot of football to be played yet and going from that game we have a lot to improve upon."

Tomorrow, they can show us exactly how those improvements are coming along.

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