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Monaghan are ready to hit the ground running


Let's go: Malachy O'Rourke is  concerned at Monaghan's  lack of action

Let's go: Malachy O'Rourke is concerned at Monaghan's lack of action

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Let's go: Malachy O'Rourke is concerned at Monaghan's lack of action

It's been seven weeks from Monaghan's impressive Division Two league final win over Donegal until they first taste Championship action tomorrow against Tyrone in Clones.

The defending Ulster champions' wait to get into the fray must have been a frustration.

Every other county in Ulster have tasted summer action and their opponents Tyrone have actually played twice.

Still, it's nice for club players in the Oriel County. No fewer than eight games have been run off in the senior league – nine in the intermediate – and they have also been able to make a start on the domestic Championship.

It's hardly any consolation to county manager Malachy O'Rourke however, as he concedes that Tyrone's preparation has to be more favourable than Monaghan's long lay-off.

"There is no point saying otherwise," says the PE teacher in St Joseph's College, Enniskillen.

"If you go back to last year and our first game against Antrim, we felt we were very poor in it even though we prepared very well.

"So there is no doubt Tyrone have that advantage.

"If they had slipped through the first game by a point it would probably have suited us better. They were able to change up to five players in their starting line-up for the replay and were able to bring in two or three more so there is no doubt about the strength of their panel."

Their last meeting came last August, a fortnight after that most incredible of Ulster finals with Monaghan jolting a seemingly unstoppable Donegal off the tracks in the old railway town of Clones.

The following day, captain Owen Lennon spoke to reporters at an All-Ireland quarter-finals publicity launch at Glenswilly – surely a quirk of fate as the organisers might have been expecting hometown boy Michael Murphy to be basking in another Ulster title.

As it transpired, it was Lennon's day to be glowing and although he made all the right noises about focusing on the next step, Monaghan were already in dreamland.

The sides were actually level with seven minutes to go, but Monaghan would not take anything away from Tyrone's eventual win.

The dynamic between the two managers is compelling.

O'Rourke was originally a Derrylin O'Connell's player but marriage took him to live in Ballygawley, where he hooked up with Mickey Harte's Errigal Ciaran club.

However, Errigal Ciaran has a huge hinterland and the two would not be living in each other's pockets.

"I wouldn't know him that well. But just look at his record and it is outstanding," O'Rourke says.

"I have sat back and watched him prepare teams with the club, watched him prepare teams at county level.

"He is just a terrific manager who knows how to prepare teams to win big Championship games and I have nothing but admiration for him.

"It is great to be in a position to go up against him and pit your wits against him."

In the meantime, the Monaghan boss is ruling out nothing in terms of a late appearance from Lennon and their gem of a forward Conor McManus.

Both have been named on the bench, with O'Rourke explaining: "You would like to be going into a tough game like this without any injuries.

"The two boys (Lennon and McManus) have not come on as well as we would have liked but we still have not given up hope."

Belfast Telegraph