When Monaghan and Down take the field for tonight’s Ulster Under-20 football championship final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh they will do so in the hope of fulfilling contrasting ambitions.
While Monaghan will be particularly keen to honour the memory of their late skipper Brendan Óg Duffy by clinching the title, the Down side will be aiming to provide a helping of consolation for a county that has shouldered its share of sporting setbacks to date this season.
Monaghan’s appearance in the decider is set to evoke an outpouring of passion from the players which their Mourne opponents hope to match in their efforts to restore a ration of pride within what was in the past a major football stronghold.
If Monaghan are to succeed, Donnach Swinburne will require to once again unveil the dynamic scoring touch that highlighted his team’s 3-10 to 1-11 semi-final win over Donegal when he landed all three goals.
With Jason Irwin, Ronan Grimes and Darragh McElearney expected to lend support, the Farney county hope to replicate the spirit and commitment that brought them into tonight’s final.
It had been thought initially that Donegal might prove an insurmountable barrier but, in the event, Monaghan’s strike rate coupled with their defensive resilience saw them chisel out a handsome win (3-10 to 1-11).
Now the Farney county will face a Down team anxious to trigger a wave of optimism within the county following the senior team’s indifferent league campaign followed by an ignominious dismissal from the Ulster Championship at the hands of a rampant Donegal side and the not unexpected exit of manager Paddy Tally.
Down U20 boss Conor Laverty has already plotted the downfall of Cavan and Fermanagh but is taking nothing for granted.
“We see this final as another step on the pathway to help these players attain senior status with Down,” states Laverty.
Former Meath senior All-Ireland winning manager Sean Boylan, regarded as one of the greatest managers in the history of the GAA, is part of the Down U20 management set-up and has been wielding a considerable influence to date.
Laverty adds: "Sean has won the respect and admiration of the players.
"They have been putting in a huge effort but it will certainly take another big push if we are to get the better of what is a very good Monaghan side.”
Andrew Gilmore, Danny Magill, John McGovern, Eamon Brown and Ruairi O’Hare are among the players who can help Down replicate the form they have shown in their two matches in the competition to date.
Down have shown that they have healthy resources up front and the Monaghan defence can certainly expect to come under heavy artillery fire particularly if Gilmore, Magill and O’Hare are on song. The side has shown a penchant for grabbing goals having landed three in their two games to date and they are capable of making life uncomfortable for the Monaghan defence.
Should they achieve this, it could prove a cracking game.