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Clerkin: Quiet build up will suit Monaghan

By Niall McCoy

FORMER Monaghan star Dick Clerkin believes that the fact that much of the focus has been on Armagh ahead of Saturday’s Ulster semi-final will suit Séamus McEnaney’s side.

The hype train has been gathering steam around this Orchard county outfit, and Clerkin said that was only natural giving that they’re trying to upset the established order.

“I think everyone at the minute, no more so than Derry last week, are keen to see new counties coming up and competing and strengthening the competition in the various provinces.

“It’s no surprise that Armagh are being latched on to. They’re a bit off obviously from competing at All-Ireland level, but people want to see if they are a realistic contender for a competition dominated by Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan for the best part of 10 years.

“There is great young talent and they’re great to watch, so it’s rightly so that they’re talked up.

“With Monaghan you know what you’re going to get, they’re very consistent. I agree that Monaghan have been allowed to take a step back in the build-up and prepare at their own speed.

“There’s been no great fuss about them and that’s not a bad way for Monaghan to go into the game.”

Clerkin has been very impressed with Monaghan’s form heading into the game, especially after a disappointing opening day league loss to this weekend’s opponents.

From there they picked up good draws with Tyrone and Donegal, defeated Galway after extra-time to secure an eighth season in Division One and easily disposed of Fermanagh in the Ulster quarter-final.

“I said a few times that I was a bit unsure of Monaghan heading into the league, not knowing their fitness and availability situation,” he said. “If some of their established players were missing would the younger players be able to step up and make an impact?

“On both those sides Monaghan came out of the league on very positive terms.

“You had the likes of Conor (McManus), Darren (Hughes), Karl O’Connell fit and sharp and growing into the league. The return of Jack (McCarron) would have been a big bonus.

“Then young (Aaron) Mulligan, Sean Jones, young (Andrew) Woods, Shane Hanratty and Killian Lavelle all making a big impact and contributing very well.

“You couldn’t have asked for a whole pile better from Monaghan in the league considering where they were going into it.”

McManus and Hughes do carry knocks into this weekend’s provincial semi-final, but Clerkin is confident that both will feature even if neither lasts the 70 minutes.

“There’s nothing I’ve heard that has them ruled out,” said the Currin man.

“Whether they will, or even need to, play for 70 minutes is another thing. The two guys are getting to the stage now where a strong 40 or even 20 minutes can be important, that comes to everybody at a stage in their career.

“If they have to be limited to that then so be it, because I think there is enough there to get the team to hold the position and maybe get them on to see it out.

“Darren contributed a lot from the bench against Galway. It was all very bland and passive up until then but they finished strongly when he came on. You want your best team on the pitch at the end of the match, not necessarily at the start.”

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