Mone calls for Monaghan push
It was one of those sequences of play that critics find unbearable, but players appreciate the incredible concentration that it takes to execute.
Working the ball out of the corner on the Gerry Arthurs side of Clones in the 64th minute, Monaghan kept possession, fist-passing it short distances between Tommy Freeman and Eoin Lennon.
Antrim’s swarm defence advanced, but once an opening appeared for centre-back Dessie Mone he made his move; latching on to the pass, breaking a tackle and stroking it over the bar.
It inched Monaghan ahead, the high point of a 15 minute period it took to turn around a three-point margin as their wiser heads led the final, glorious charge to a 0-12 to 1-09 Ulster Championship success on Sunday.
So was Dessie Mone, a defender not normally associated with sweeping points, nervous as he lined up the shot?
“I would probably be more nervous of going home and my father asking me why I didn’t shoot?” laughed the Clontibret man.
“When you’re in that area you have to go for it. The boys kept the ball well, I don’t know how many passes it took to get in, but there was an opportunity there and when the opportunity arises, you have to take it and put it over. Lucky enough, it got over.”
Mone’s career has bridged two eras of Monaghan football, from Banty to Eamonn McEneaney, and he admitted that their poor record in Ulster Championship matches in Clones was something that drove the veterans on.
“It wouldn’t be playing on the minds of the younger lads on the team there, probably more so us,” he conceded.
“It has to be broken at some time and, thank God, this is a new team here now and we can approach it in a new way.
“We can’t think of the past or the past performances of Monaghan teams.
“We know the effort we were putting in,” he said of Monaghan’s poor run of form over the last two years.
“We just weren’t finishing out games and it was hard there, getting relegated again. But we knew
there was a performance in us, we knew there was the basis of a good team there, we just had to get our first Championship win together with this new team.
“We are happy coming away with that victory, we came to do a job, and the job is done.”
All in Clones found common ground in declaring the introduction of Tommy Freeman to be the defining move of the game, the difference between both sides in the end.
Mone emphasises the Magheracloone man’s importance when he articulated the changing tide of the games’ closing quarter.
“Eoin Lennon was coming in to the game with an injury, he was doubtful, but you could see in the last 15 minutes of the game he dominated in around the middle of the field.
“Then Tommy came in and he is one of the best ball-winners in the country.
“If you put the ball in there he will get it for you, or get you a free and stick it over the bar.
“It lifts the whole team and the momentum of the game.”
This time last year, Freeman was completing a full-forward line beside two other Monaghan men in sunshine football; Rory Woods and Kieran Tavey.
But it was for the Leitrim club in New York they were playing for, lack of work having forced Freeman stateside.
“When I was away, I was missing it big time and I’d rather have been here,” reflected Freeman. “The way the work situation was, I had no other choice, I had to go. I’m back now and I’m glad to be back playing football.”
While a hamstring injury prevented him from starting, he revealed how he was left in reserve as a sub that could make an impact.
“Eamonn [McEneaney] spoke to me during the week. It’s a four week process and it’s only coming up to three weeks Tuesday coming [today], but it felt good in training.
“I couldn’t be greedy, I couldn’t say, ‘I wanted to play’ and me injured, so Eamonn took the choice for the team.
“When I came on, everything went well, but I’m going to get more treatment on it.”
With his fair skin and red hair, he might have suffered badly in Clones yesterday, but Freeman said he was prepared.
“The heat was a big factor, but we knew we were going to get a tough test from Antrim. They were getting a lot of men behind the ball and it took us 65 minutes to even break it down. We knew they were going to be tough, they proved it today.
“If you couldn’t enjoy your football on a day like that, with a crowd in Clones, you shouldn’t be there.”