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Malachy O'Rourke happy as experience comes good in end

By Declan Bogue

Prices scrawled in chalk on bookmaker's blackboards held little interest for Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke for the last few weeks.

Those that were making his side warm favourites, he remained wary of, especially after an early opening blitz by Cavan that had his side gasping for oxygen.

"Between Monaghan and Cavan there is a serious rivalry and there was an awful lot talked about it and so on. There is an awful fear of losing there, in a way, and sometimes that can inhibit you as well," said the Fermanagh schoolteacher.

"To find ourselves four points down midway through that half wasn't a great position but we showed our experience and that character to fight our way back into it. I thought we started to use the ball a lot better and got Conor McManus on the ball a wee bit more and overall we ran out deserving winners at the end of it."

And just while we're on the subject of McManus, is it too early to talk in terms of him being the best forward in the game?

"He's not far away from it anyway," O'Rourke answered emphatically. "We knew that Conor was going to be double-teamed and so on. A lot of the time, if you are kicking high ball or 50-50 ball in it's very easy to knock it away from him.

"Whereas I thought, in the second half we were popping the ball in front of him, he was able to win it easier and then take his man on. The last score he got was top-class. We expect that off him.

"But we are trying to take the load off him, not that he is winning every match for us. There will be days that he will be under pressure but there's no doubt, it's great to have him up there."

He also revealed that Scotstown brothers Darren and Kieran Hughes had been injury worries leading into the game, but the two warriors made arguably just as important a contribution to the victory as McManus.

"Darren carried an injury into the game," he said.

"He hasn't really trained apart from the last week. He got an injury in a club game so he was curtailed.

"Kieran got an injury in the first half, it was touch and go in the first half, we were going to take him off at half-time. The start of the second half we were going to take him off but then he started moving better. We just thought we would let him be, hopefully the damage isn't too bad but we will assess that."

What this game taught us, once again, is that there is nothing like the old dog for the hard road, as epitomised by the contribution of substitutes Dick Clerkin, Stephen Gollogly and Colin Walshe.

"A lot of those fellas have played in a lot of championship games and been in situations like that before. When we were in that difficult patch those experienced guys held up their hands," their coach beamed.

Terry Hyland is not a man who gets too high in victory or too low in defeat, and he was typically phlegmatic in the aftermath, as he looked ahead to a run in the qualifiers.

"In fairness last year we lost an awful lot of players," he recalled of last year's exit.

"By the time we got to the Roscommon game, I think we were down nine from the team which played Roscommon in the National League. We had a lot of fellas who went to the United States. I don't envisage anyone going away this year that I know of so far. If we can keep all the lads around. If they can keep their heads down and work hard they should have a good enough summer."

Belfast Telegraph


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