2023: Monaghan continue to defy expectations

A look back on some of the Monaghan memories of 2023..

1 The great survivors

LIKE every year for what feels like an eternity at this stage, Monaghan were the favourites to drop out of Division One and finally suffer league relegation in 2023. A new, inexperienced, management team in place, a side in transition, the older guard not getting any younger, everything pointed to Monaghan finishing in the bottom two of the top tier. That narrative was only strengthened after the opening two rounds when back-to-back defeats to near neighbours Armagh and All-Ireland champions Kerry pointed to a team on the wane. But like they usually do, Monaghan fought like dogs and won three of their final five games, including a dramatic final day victory over Mayo in Castlebar, to cling on to their Division One status once again. When the new season swings into gear, they’ll once again be name-checked as being on their last legs, but they should never be written off.

2 All-Star form

THE All-Star team always throws up different kinds of debates and arguments. Every county feels their player was better than the one that was selected and quite often somebody is picked out of position, like James McCarthy at wing-back when he was nominated at midfield on this year’s team. This year, one of the biggest debates centred around who the other wing half-back would be, and it looked like it came down to two Monaghan men, Conor McCarthy and Karl O’Connell. O’Connell was magnificent in Monaghan’s run to the last four of the All-Ireland series and was truly an inspiration for Vinny Corey’s men. McCarthy was just as good and given his transition from attack to defence and how well he performed in a new role, the Scotstown man deserved to pick up the award and could be a real driving force for the Farney men over the next couple of seasons.

3 Scotstown’s Ulster dreams dashed

DARREN Hughes, Kieran Hughes, Rory Beggan and a number of other Scotstown players deserved to collect an Ulster medal at the end of this year due to their dedicated service to the club cause over the last decade or more. But sport doesn’t work like that and David McCague’s men came up against a well-oiled machine in Glen and the Derry champs just proved too strong on the day. No doubt Scotstown will remain a top contender in the province in the years to come, but the aforementioned trio aren’t getting any younger and no matter how much youth or talent the club is producing on a yearly basis, it’s impossible to replace that sort of character and drive that those lads have shown.

4 All-Ireland champions

HOW many Monaghan men have climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand at the end of the All-Ireland final? There’s not too many, that’s for sure. But the Monaghan hurlers finished their year on a high and captured the Lory Meagher Cup for the first time in their history.

Despite picking up just one point from their opening two group games, the Farney men rallied to go on a run that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. Wins over Warwickshire, Lancashire and Longford saw them top the group and set up a decider against Lancashire, which turned out to be a thriller. Arthur Hughes’ side emerged victorious in the end with just two points to spare thanks to goals from Niall Garland and Thomas Hughes.

5 From Cremartin to Collingwood

MONAGHAN Ladies captain Muireann Atkinson has joined AFLW side Collingwood on a two-year deal and hopes to become another Irish lady to display her footballing talents Down Under. She’ll not be short on company as Mayo star Sarah Rowe along with Cavan attacker Aisling Sheridan are also members of the Collingwood club, and the trio already have a lot of history between them.

The three girls lived with each other while at university and also won an O’Connor Cup with DCU together in 2018, with Atkinson playing a starring role at midfield. Atkinson will be a huge miss for Monaghan, who just survived the drop to Division Three this season and were knocked out of the All-Ireland Intermediate race at the quarter-final stage by Ulster opponents Antrim.

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