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It's not out with the old just yet for Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke

By John Campbell

The sands of time are running out for the corps of battle-hardened warriors who have buttressed Monaghan's bid to remain part of football's elite corps in recent years.

Yet manager Malachy O'Rourke has not been prone to sleepless nights in the build-up to his team's Ulster Championship confrontation with neighbours Cavan on Sunday.

Two years ago, when Monaghan were crowned provincial champions for the first time in a quarter of a century, players like Eoin Lennon, Vinny Corey, Dick Clerkin, Paul Finlay, Stephen Gollogly and Dessie Mone all stepped smartly up to the mark to share in what was a long overdue triumph.

Those same players are still part of the fabric of the side today, but now team boss O'Rourke can, with understandable enthusiasm, pinpoint a raft of fresh talent that is currently underpinning the side alongside his platoon of veterans.

"It's very satisfying to see players like Neil McAdam, who was with us before taking a year out last year, along with Ryan McAnespie, Ryan Wylie, Karl O'Connell, Thomas Kerr, Daniel McKenna and Pauric McKenna coming through strongly," said O'Rourke.

The emergence of this fresh infusion of talent could hardly be more opportune as O'Rourke continues to monitor the progress being made by a quartet of long-term injury victims in the shape of Colin Walsh, Jack McCarron, Chrissy McGuinness and Eoin Lennon.

Enniskillen schoolteacher O'Rourke believes that his senior citizens are playing a key role in helping to re-shape his side, though.

"I must say the older guys are brilliant role models," he said.

"They have left a standard there for other guys to measure up to in relation to things like preparation, training and attitude.

"At the same time, the fact that there are new faces in the side means that they push the older players on and they in turn have to step up their game to make sure that they keep their places.

The battle of neighbours will bring an added dimension to the Ulster series and O'Rourke is conscious of the pressure on players.

"Games such as this one take on a life of their own and we have to be well prepared," said O'Rourke.

Belfast Telegraph


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