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Monaghan men are gearing up to embark on hot run

By Declan Bogue

Monaghan's Darren Hughes has praised the warm-weather training camp that his team only returned from on Friday, and its role in turning an 11-point loss to Dublin the previous Sunday into a narrow one-point defeat in the league semi-final in Croke Park.

"We got a lot of benefit out of it," said the Scotstown man of the three-and-a-half days they spent in Portugal.

"I suppose you get to spend a lot of time together, you plan everything. You get three training sessions, whether that be gym, pitch or meetings.

"You would only get that in a week at home, so they are the advantages of it. You are there as a unit the whole time."

While Sunday ended in narrow defeat, it was yet another step along the way in Monaghan's league record under Malachy O'Rourke. Since he came in, they have won the Division Three league, Division Two last year and were league semi-finalists this time.

And Hughes insists a lot of that comes down to players accepting responsibility.

"The senior players stuck about. Eoin Lennon, Dick Clerkin, Paul Finlay, Stephen Gollogly. That was the confidence in them that the players were coming through. The fact is that we deserved to be where we were, but it was our own fault we were there," he recalled.

"We stuck it out and we are back near the top again. We have given ourselves a fighting chance of going into the summer."

Monaghan now have five weeks to prepare for their first round Ulster Championship meeting with Cavan, with Hughes warning: "It is probably the toughest game we could ask for, going to Breffni Park.

"As a group of players, we haven't won there. I know I haven't won there."

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