Monaghan captain Ryan Wylie is in no doubt that tomorrow’s Ulster Senior Football Championship final clash with Tyrone will be the litmus test for his side.
The experienced defender, currently revelling in his role as skipper, believes that the Red Hands’ victories over Cavan and Donegal have served to bolster their confidence to such an extent that they will be striving to reach a new peak in terms of performance tomorrow.
Yet with the Oriels having scored a significant victory over Galway in the league which copper-fastened their place in the top bracket for another year prior to their Championship wins over Fermanagh and Armagh, they too will bring their own ration of self-belief to the table.
“We have met Tyrone on several occasions over the course of the past three years and there’s very little that we don’t know about each other,” smiled Wylie. “Obviously Croke Park is invariably a big testing ground and we know that we have to produce our best form if we are to have any chance of winning.
“While the Covid-19 threat is still with us and we have had to cope with the tragic death of Brendan Óg Duffy, I still think we have come to appreciate the value of sport more than ever.
“Indeed, it could be said that there is not too much to life without sport.”
With the Monaghan side having undergone something of a transition now that players such as Michael Bannigan, Aaron Mulligan, Conor McCarthy, Stephen O’Hanlon and Andrew Woods have come to the surface in their forward division, tomorrow’s showdown will provide a severe test of their mettle.
But with Conor McManus and Jack McCarron there to lend an experienced edge up front, Wylie believes that his team can provide problems for the seasoned Tyrone rearguard.
“I think that the venue and the occasion will make their own demands on both teams and it will all come down to who steps up to these challenges best,” said Wylie.
And he admitted that last year’s preliminary round defeat in the Ulster Championship against Cavan still rankles with his side.
“We weren’t getting the best headlines after that,” stated Wylie.
While there is considerable emphasis on Tyrone’s strength on the bench, Wylie is keen to stress that Monaghan are not short in this department either.
Kieran Hughes, Colin Walshe, Shane Carey and Fintan Kelly are among the players who have been helping to throw their weight behind the Championship cause to date.
“Yes, we have boys who have been coming on from the bench and helping us to close out matches. They have been showing their value to the side and this is certainly something that is very important. We know that Tyrone are well served in this department but we like to think that we have people who can come on and stand up to be counted,” pointed out Wylie.
With Kerry waiting in the wings to confront tomorrow’s winners in the All-Ireland semi-final, you could hardly ask for a more appetising ‘reward’. But that will be a story for another day.