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Monaghan v Armagh panned out exactly as I expected


Jim McGuinness

Jim McGuinness

Jim McGuinness

To be honest, it didn't surprise me that Monaghan won the replay yesterday. It happens a lot when a team is expected to win the first day and don't – they are inclined to make no mistake second time round.

Knowing Malachy O'Rourke and Ryan Porter as I do, they would have left no stone unturned in the preparations for the replay and would have worked hard on the weaknesses that they had at the first clash.

They struggled to get themselves up for the drawn game after the intensity they had produced in the previous round against Tyrone, but I believe that going forward the extra game will benefit them.

They were perhaps a little complacent the first day and that can happen. It happened to us against Cavan back in 2005 when we were almost caught but we turned around and won the replay comfortably a week later on our way to a second All-Ireland.

If they had closed out the game when three points up a week ago, they may have been papering over the cracks but Malachy will know more about his team ahead of the Ulster final.

With three tough games under their belts, they will go into it in a confident frame of mind against a Donegal side who have been inactive this past four weeks.

The decision to play Paul Finlay from the start proved to be a great move for them as he never wasted a ball and he helped lay the platform for Conor McManus to flourish.

McManus finished with 1-7 to his name and you could see the confidence in him from having had a couple of games under his belt and come the Ulster final, he will take serious watching.

Armagh had their three suspended players back and at times that can work against you, believe it or not.

Last week they felt that they had a point to prove and everybody probably lifted their game an extra 20 percent for the cause but that seemed to be missing yesterday and they never looked like pulling the game out of the fire again.

Ryan Wylie was another player who did very well for Monaghan and they will feel that they will never have as good a chance to win back to back Ulster senior titles for the first time in their history.

Having said that, Jim McGuinness is a shrewd operator as well and he will have had two games now to watch Monaghan and come up with a game plan to beat them and one thing is for sure, he won't want to lose a third major final in a row to them.

For Armagh they have little time to turn things around before facing Tyrone at Healy Park next weekend. Those two games will have taken a lot out of them and it will all depend on how they react to this defeat.

If they go in with the same attitude as the first game, there is no doubt that they will trouble Tyrone but it is a big ask of them to recover in such a short time and try and get a win in Omagh.

Antrim's season came to a disappointing end at the weekend as well and it's difficult to know where they go from here.

There is no doubt that they have plenty of talented individuals but they never seem able to gel together. It must be a mental issue and it remains one of the big mysteries to me.

Belfast Telegraph