Croker the perfect place to start says Mone

By Shaun Casey

THERE’S nowhere else in the country Monaghan would rather start their National League campaign than in Croke Park, insists former Farney football Dessie Mone, speaking on this week’s Gaelic Lives Podcast.

Monaghan kick-start their tenth successive season in the topflight, while Dublin return to Division One football having claimed the Division Two league title last season, seeing off Derry in the decider.

The two teams have locked horns on several occasions down through the years, in both league and championship. Most recently, Dublin just nicked past Vinny Corey’s side in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

“There’s no better place to start it than in Croke Park against the Dubs,” said Mone. “Everybody is going to be putting their hands forward on the Monaghan squad, going up to Croke Park, it’s always nice to play on that pitch.

“You always think getting Dublin at the start might be better, they’re maybe trying to keep the older lads fresher for later on in the campaign, more so towards the end of the league.

“This is where Monaghan can maybe build up a couple of points and Monaghan and Dublin always create a massive game. It’s always a footballing spectacle, it’s always open. Jack McCarron usually goes well up in Croke Park against the Dubs.”

Monaghan could be without some key personnel. Kieran Hughes has retired; Karl Gallagher recently signed a two-year contract with Aussie Rules outfit Adelaide Crows while Rory Beggan’s situation remains unknown.

The likelihood is that Monaghan will also rest the older, experienced heads of Conor McManus and Darren Hughes, before recalling them for the final few rounds of the league.

“That’s a big headache for Monaghan,” added the two-time Ulster Championship winner on the men missing from Corey’s panel. “They have a few injuries just toted up there in the McKenna Cup which they probably didn’t want.

“There were boys that would have wanted a wee bit of game time just coming into the National League and have picked up injuries. I suppose Dublin are probably the same with the O’Byrne Cup, you could see they didn’t really field any regulars for the final.”

Mone hailed the influence of the recently retired Kieran Hughes, who he believes will be a major miss for Monaghan. “Kieran could play full-forward or in the midfield area and it’s a pity he did retire because he played so well in that Ulster Club final.

“He and Conor Glass really had a good battle in around midfield and he played so well and I thought maybe that could have sparked him on to go another year but it wasn’t to be.”

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