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Monaghan's progress gives Clerkin the desire to go on

By Declan Bogue

After experiencing an evening of shock and awe up close, Monaghan veteran Dick Clerkin was ideally-placed to offer a first-hand account of what Dublin can do to teams, following their 17-point win in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Dublin's average score this season has been 2-23 and while they fell one point short of that on Saturday, they nonetheless once again blew the competition out of the water.

"People say if they have a weak spot then it is their defence, but the likes of Jonny Cooper are Rory O'Carroll are super players and fantastic athletes," said 32-year-old midfielder Clerkin.

"Going into the game, we were confident that we would give Dublin a good rattle.

"A lot of lads, while we don't document it like other teams, were carrying injuries. When you get to this stage you need to be at full health and fresh.

"After going through what we had to go through it has to have an impact, but that doesn't bridge a 17-point defeat and Dublin could have had a few more. For counties like Monaghan it is always going to be difficult coming up here against the likes of that."

However, Clerkin was keen to accentuate the improvements Monaghan have made over the past two years, adding: "The easy thing to do is to make excuses, and be like other teams, come out for a day out and get the Dublin or Kerry jersey after the game.

"That is not what we are about. We are about progressing.

"Two years ago, we were staring into retirement in Division Three, now look at the progress we have made.

"This year there was serious progress made. We got to another Ulster final. We had to beat Tyrone. We had to play Armagh twice and we can see what a good team Armagh are now."

Even for all that, Clerkin could hold his head high after the defeat.

He was marking Michael Darragh Macauley, the man who usually makes things happen for Dublin, but in their personal duel Clerkin came off the winner, having garnished a hard-grafting performance with two neat points from play.

This season, Clerkin admits he expected to play a role as an impact sub, but an injury to Owen Lennon in the league final meant he has played every game and his contributions were worthy of asking if he would reverse his previously-held thoughts of retirement.

"We have a child and we have another due on New Year's Day so that is obviously great that we have been blessed that way," he began.

"In terms of trying to balance an intercounty career with that, it is not the easiest.

"Since Caolan was born, we have played in five finals and won four of them. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but if I can, I am not thinking about retiring at this stage.

"My priority is to be a father and support my family. If playing inter-county football next year inhibits that in any way then I will have to think long and hard about it.

"At this stage, if things go well, and if things work out well, I would be quite happy to put my shoulder to the wheel because it is a great time to be a Monaghan footballer."

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