Gillis: Derry should expect the unexpected against Monaghan

By Shaun Casey

DERRY have held the upper hand in recent games against Monaghan, but former Oak Leaf goalkeeper Barry Gillis warns that those results will count for little when the two teams come to blows on Saturday.

Derry beat Vinny Corey’s men in last year’s Ulster semi-final, as they did in 2022 as well, but a draw was the outcome of the most recent clash, in the opening round of last season’s All-Ireland round robin series.

“They can be a funny sort of a side at times,” said Gillis, who guarded the Derry goal the last time they won the Division One league title back in 2008.

“It’s like every team, they all present their own challenges in their own right. Monaghan, they always seem to do well against Dublin in the league for some reason as they have in previous years.

“I suppose then they came up against a Kerry side in the last round. Kerry were looking to get two points to get their campaign up and running, and it’s a very good Kerry side that put them away convincingly.

“Monaghan and Derry have met each other in the Ulster Championship there in the last couple of years and Derry have the bragging rights at this stage but that won’t mean anything come Saturday. There’s two points up for grabs and whoever wants them will get them.”

There’s a familiar feel when Ulster teams meet in the league, with Derry having already overcome Tyrone in round two, and Saturday’s encounter in Celtic Park will be no different. “These teams are in Division One for a reason,” added Gillis.

“They’re good sides and when you play another Ulster side, it does add another wee bit of an edge to it. Nobody wants to give up anything, even at this stage of the year. It may be only February, but everybody still wants to go out and win and everybody needs to win.”

Derry have made the perfect start to 2024 and already have a piece of silverware in the trophy cabinet in the form of the McKenna Cup. They have won two games from two in the league and Gillis feels that another cup would do his county the world of good.

“It’s probably something Derry would have looked at before the league started, getting those four points from two games. In Division One, getting two points from any of those games is a difficult enough task so to have four on the board is fantastic for them at this stage.

“I’m sure if you asked any of the lads playing, they would want a Division One title. That’s what it’s all about and people may say that teams take a step back in the league and build up to the championship, but everyone wants to win.

“With the compact season, having a good run and winning the league doesn’t guarantee any success in the championship, but it’s a great team builder.”

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