Monaghan’s long-serving top-scoring ace Conor McManus is in no doubt as to just how the memory of Brendan Óg Duffy can now be honoured.
With Monaghan due to meet Down in the Ulster Under-20 final next Friday night and then confront Tyrone in the senior decider at Croke Park the following afternoon, football fever has gripped the county.
And McManus, the heartbeat of the attack for so long and currently ranked as one of the outstanding forwards in the country, believes that a double success by the Farney sides would be the perfect tribute to a young player who in his short life gave so much to the county.
“I don’t think there is a better way in which we can honour Brendan’s memory,” says McManus, “He lived for football. His death is still so hard to take in and yet we have to try and focus on the future.
“Now we have two finals coming up and these represent major physical and mental tests for our two teams. While we are elated to be in these finals, the aim must be to win both if we can for Brendan Óg.
“There’s no doubt in the world that Ógie would have been brought into the Monaghan senior panel next year. He was the Under-20 captain this year and he was the minor captain two years ago.
"Last Friday night in the second-half of the Under-20 game against Donegal, Monaghan made a massive comeback and Ógie was central to all of that. It was just typical of his character how he played football with heart, determination and leadership. We as players are getting the opportunity at two levels to honour his memory and we will be striving our best to do that.”
Having retained their place in Division One of the league by pipping Galway in a frenetic shoot-out prior to overcoming Fermanagh and Armagh in the championship, Monaghan are particularly keen to capture the Anglo-Celt Cup for the first time in six years.
“We knew going into the game against Armagh that they were a quality side and when we chalked up our four goals and a handful of points in the first-half I was saying to myself: ‘How did we mange that?’” recalls McManus.
“Then, all of a sudden, we were behind and we ended up snatching the match out of the fire. But it was great to get the win given all the circumstances surrounding the match. It was an emotional occasion.”
While the senior side will face a Tyrone outfit that has already overcome Cavan and Donegal, the U20 outfit must confront a Down side that has impressed by beating Cavan and Fermanagh en route to the final.
“Obviously it’s a big thing for Monaghan to be in two finals and the hope now is that we can deliver the goods,” adds McManus.