Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: Ulster duo well-placed to push on in 2024

I THINK everyone outside of maybe Ulster got the final that they wished for after last weekend’s results.

Don’t get me wrong, we now have an unbelievable spectacle to look forward to given the history and the tradition between both of these teams, but it could have been easily so different.

Massive credit must go to both Ulster teams who died with their boots on last weekend and turned in massive performances.

Personally, I didn’t think that there would be much between them. However, I did believe that both Dublin and Kerry would have a little too much for Monaghan and Derry at this stage of their development.

When looking at both games, we have to put this into context. Monaghan and Derry came up against two teams who are at the very top end in terms of their development.

Dublin have just come off the back of an unprecedented run of All-Irelands and most of that squad were involved so their experience is massive.

Meanwhile, Kerry, who had been hurting for a number of years, have built this awesome team who went on to capture Sam once again last year.

If we are being totally honest, then Monaghan and Derry are a little behind both of these teams in terms of their overall development and quality so the fact that both of these teams went toe to toe for so long is a credit to both counties.

I understand that this won’t mean much to any of those teams this week as they will be hurting from the defeat, but they are not that far away from the Promised Land so I’m sure after a few weeks they will regroup and plan ahead for next season.

Derry have now suffered two gut wrenching semi-final defeats, but there is that old saying where they say you have to learn to lose before you can learn to win and when you look through that Derry panel they are at a perfect age to come back even stronger again in 2024.

Last season, if you look at them, the whole game plan was based upon the defensive structure, but this year they have transformed that and now they have the perfect mix between defence and attack so once they lick their wounds I’m sure they will be ready to go again come winter time.

For Monaghan, I think that this season has been an incredible one. When you consider that no one wanted to manage this Monaghan team and Vinny Corey had to be persuaded to take them. So, when you see how far they have come, they deserve massive credit.

They will learn so much from this run and if they can keep all their experienced campaigners on board, especially Conor McManus, then I’m sure they can build on this for next season and they will be extremely confident heading in the Ulster Championship campaign.

Like I said earlier, we have an unbelievable final to look forward to and we will look into that game in more detail next week.

For now, it’s all about giving credit where credit is due and there is no doubt that these two Ulster teams did us proud last weekend so fair play to them both.

The easy thing for both of these teams to do would have been to try and contain Dublin and Kerry as much as possible. Derry and Monaghan did the opposite. They went for the jugular and just fell short. Over the winter months both of them will look over missed chances and squandered scoring opportunities and perhaps a few calls from the referee, but one thing is for sure, they will have gained a lot of confidence from last weekend’s performances.

Elsewhere, last weekend, Down suffered defeat at the hands of Colm O’Rourke’s Meath. Although a win and a trophy would have been great, I’m sure that this run would still have helped Conor Laverty as he tries to resurrect Down football and bring it back to the top table once again.

When Down look back over the season then they will be happy with their lot.

Their seniors had a good campaign and their u-20s won silverware, so things are looking a lot better in the Mourne County over the last number of months.

The tide is turning here in Ulster with Derry now becoming the dominant team and Monaghan and Down posting good seasons.

It’s up to the likes of Tyrone, Armagh and Donegal to try and get their house in order over the coming months.

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