Monaghan aim to build on triumphs
UlsterR champions Monaghan are well aware that it might be difficult to replicate their achievements of last year.
Malachy O'Rourke's side won promotion from Division Three, ended a 25-year Ulster title famine and were rather unfortunate to be beaten by two points by Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
It was a memorable year for a team that had wallowed in the doldrums for a protracted spell but having raised the bar, Monaghan are preparing to walk the walk again against Donegal in Sunday's Allianz League Division Two final at Croke Park.
And All Star defender Colin Walshe admits that it will be one of the team's biggest challenges to date since Donegal are clearly thirsting for revenge following their unexpected taming in last year's surprisingly one-sided provincial decider.
Donegal had been hoping to land a hat-trick of Ulster crowns in that game but instead were halted in their tracks by an inspired Monaghan side that scaled a new peak in terms of application and intensity.
Now Walshe, one of the best players in the country last year, acknowledges that these qualities will have to be in vogue if his side is to get the better of Jim McGuinness's outfit again.
"Division Two has been very tight all along the line and you could not have picked a single game and said who was going to win it," states Walshe.
"We ourselves were seven points up against Down and could only get a draw and then we made the occasional slip-up since then but we're in the final and when you get to Croke Park you want to do yourself justice."
Manager O'Rourke has tweaked his side to good effect and currently parades a fusion of youth and experience that has helped to bring fresh status to a county which under the baton of his predecessor Seamus McEnaney had merely flirted with success rather too often.
"That we acquired a winning habit last year stood to us and we have not been doing too badly this year. But Donegal will be a big test for us in their current frame of mind.
"They are very fixated on success following their setbacks last year and I have absolutely no doubt that they will want to send out a message to the country as a whole on Sunday," insists Walshe who skippered DIT to their Sigerson Cup triumph last year.
While O'Rourke still has "minor concerns" over three players, Walshe is confident that Monaghan can rise to the occasion.
"We have good players – boys like Paul Finlay, Dessie Mone, Vinny Corey and Conor McManus have been delivering the goods for a while now and they can help set the tone for our display," adds the Doohamlet clubman.