Monaghan boss O'Rourke relishing Donegal challenge
MONAGHAN manager Malachy O'Rourke has experienced relatively little difficulty in ensuring that his players' feet remain firmly planted on the ground in the wake of their stunning recent 0-20 to 0-8 win over fancied Meath.
And the reason is simple. O'Rourke's charges will take on a Donegal side on Sunday that has already claimed the scalps of Laois and Galway in Division Two of the Allianz League and, what is perhaps more worrying, have shown that they are playing well within themselves.
It promises to be a fascinating contest between the current Ulster champions and the 2012 title holders and Enniskillen schoolteacher O'Rourke is acutely aware that come tea time on Sunday, he could be contemplating a jostle for a promotion place or staring into the relegation zone.
Yet he will take his side to Letterkenny fortified by the clinical accuracy displayed by a range of scorers against the Royal County.
Long-serving Conor McManus, despite a hip problem, landed seven points; keeper Rory Beggan popped over three '45's and new kid on the block Jack McCarron snapped up four points in another starring role.
But while McManus knows that his full-forward line will carry a big threat, he he is also conscious that Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty, if selected, will keep his defence at full stretch for the best part of the contest.
He admitted: "This game against Donegal is going to be very tough. If they beat us it would be all to play for again, but the most important thing is we're delighted with that performance against Meath.
"The boys are working hard in training and we just want to make sure that is reflected in our performance on Sunday."
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness will include a generous array of his experienced troops in Sunday's line-up and this means that Monaghan will be confronted by a wealth of guile, craft and power.
Having hit the league running, Donegal have no intention of taking their foot off the accelerator –unlike last year when their cavalier approach resulted in relegation.
"They will be very keen to remain unbeaten and the challenge for us will be to halt them. That won't be easy in this division, where on any given day any side could beat any other side," points out O'Rourke.