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Farney boss has utmost faith in his stars

By Declan Bogue

After the fun and games of last weekend, when a number of managers and selectors planted a few choice words of advice for referees about future opponents, Monaghan's manager Malachy O'Rourke is delighted no such gamesmanship has taken place so far with Marty Duffy set to take charge of their game against Dublin.

Monaghan were known to be unhappy with Kildare manager Jason Ryan's assertion that Conor McManus was, in Ryan's words, the "number one free-winner in Ireland," and O'Rourke believes there is no room in the game for such propaganda.

"Everyone knows referees are under an awful lot of pressure and all you're asking any day you go out is that the referee is completely impartial," said the Enniskillen schoolteacher.

"Marty Duffy is a very experienced referee and that's all that we want, to make sure that if we deserve a free, we get one. And that if Dublin deserve one, they get one, so I am sure the referee will have no bearing on the result."

O'Rourke is relishing the prospect of taking on Dublin in front of an expected crowd of around 65,000.

"We know it could be a massive task for us but that's what we have been saying from the start of the year. It's a great opportunity for us all to test ourselves against the best team in the country and it's going to be a massive challenge, but we are looking forward to it," he said.

As a player, O'Rourke had some experience of recovering from a tough match in order to play another seven days later. Twenty-one years ago, he was wing-forward on a Fermanagh team that drew with Armagh in a monsoon played at Irvinestown and a week later, they lost in a momentous collapse under a scorching sun at the Athletic Grounds.

The difference between how O'Rourke the player and the manager prepares in such situations are enormous, he reveals.

"I suppose with the advances in sports science, we are very lucky with Ryan (Porter) and Leo (McBride) there who have a lot of experience in that area. It's just a case of starting our recovery straight away with regards to getting into the pool, wearing the compression trousers.

"It's important to get the mental recovery as well. Obviously, after the game none of the boys were going out for a drink or anything, they were just getting home and getting as much rest as possible to be in a fresh condition."

Even though they weren't cracking open any bottles of suds last Saturday night, it was a satisfying coach journey back to Monaghan.

"Over the years a lot was made of the fact that Monaghan haven't won a Championship match in Croke Park for so long and the fellas have put a lot of work into football over the years," said O'Rourke.

"It wasn't that you were really looking at the history books or anything else, it was the manner of the win. We didn't play that well for the most of it and there were times that a team with lesser character might have said, 'well, it's not our day' and so on.

"But the boys dug in and when we conceded our two goals – which was sort of unlike us – we still kept going and got ourselves back into the game. We were a point down towards the end and it looked as if it was over.

"The boys didn't accept that, we took the quick kickout, there were boys prepared to get the ball and make something happen.

"There was a lot of character shown and that was the pleasing thing. It's often the days you get the most joy out of it is when you don't necessarily play brilliantly, but you still get through because of the character shown and the ability to not give in."

Such never-say-die attitude will be in big demand this evening. But then, when did a Monaghan team ever lie down?

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