We're not that far behind best, insists Down manager Eamonn Burns
Asked to comment on the clear widening gap that is appearing in the Ulster field, Down manager Eamonn Burns acknowledged: "If you are analysing the last three or four games that would be the case but we feel on any given day, and obviously today was not one of them, that we can compete with anyone.
"But Monaghan are a very experienced team, they have won two of the last three Ulster titles and you don't do that without very experienced players and a good system. They seem to have all those pieces in place."
Down's lack of wins this year has cost them dearly. Despite Burns' statement that they can beat anyone, they are not convincing anyone.
Still, he won't hear of it.
"I would not be standing here talking to you if I did not think that we could not close the gap. We need to look at that on Tuesday night as we start to get ready for the qualifiers."
Down might have been in front at half-time if they had converted even half their wides tally of eight by that point, but Burns was merely pointing out the obvious when he answered: "Yeah, but at the end of the day you have to put those scores over the bar if you are going to compete."
As to reasons why they were so flat in the second half, going into their shell and failing to bother the scoreboard operator for 27 minutes, Burns was at a loss.
"Like I said, for 40 minutes we were in that game, it was nip and tuck and probably the kick of a ball."
At a push, he could identify Peter Turley's black card as having a bearing on the game.
"Peter getting the black card, he was doing a lot of work for us. He was tremendous for us during the league and kept us in games for long periods of time.
"Peter going off maybe tipped the balance a bit, and there signs that Monaghan started kicking into a different gear. They moved the ball very slickly. Today's analysis after the match, it was just clinical at the end of the day and I think that's what won them the game," he said.