All-Ireland SFC Round 2
Monaghan v Clare
Sunday, St Tiernach’s Park, 2pm
By Shaun Casey
YOU can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but then again, sometimes you don’t have to. Although Monaghan seem to be trying to turn a corner, when the going gets tough, it’s the old battle-hardened warriors that still stand up to be counted.
When Derry were one point ahead with just seconds left on the clock in the opening round of the All-Ireland group stages, Karl O’Connell rolled back the years to produce the goods and secure a draw for his side.
The tried and trusted. O’Connell started the game while Darren Hughes, Kieran Hughes, Jack McCarron and Conor McManus all came off the bench within the final 15 minutes to help see the game out.
And if Monaghan are to go deep into the competition, they need to wrap the old guard in cotton wool. And if they are to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition, then Sunday’s clash with Clare is of vital importance.
Rule number one in the round robin format, you must win your home game. Anything after that, like a point picked up in Celtic Park against the Ulster champions, is a bonus. In Clones this weekend, Monaghan must bring war to secure at least a preliminary quarter-final place.
Clare are no slouches, although they’ll have been bitterly disappointed by their opening round defeat to Donegal. Despite leading by three points at the midway stage, 0-6 to 0-3, Clare couldn’t hold on after the turnaround and lost by five points in the end.
And for Colm Collins’s side, a trip to St Tiernach’s Park is as tough an away gig as there is, but they may just have an ace up their sleeve. Down man Mark Doran joined forces with Collins at the start of the season having helped Ballybay to a Monaghan Senior Championship title last year.
Doran will have happy memories of Clones, as Ballybay turned over Scotstown in last year’s county final at the same venue. A Ballybay side back-boned by Monaghan stalwarts Ryan Wylie and Dessie Ward.
So, Doran’s knowledge of Monaghan club football will be second to none, but how much of an advantage that will be remains to be seen. No doubt about it, the Banner County have enough quality to pose huge questions of their hosts.
Clare’s season has been one of fairly mixed emotions. In the league, they won just two of their seven games and suffered relegation to Division Three, although that didn’t derail their ambitions come the championship.
Despite being downbeat, Clare turned a corner with an eye-catching one-point win over Cork followed by a three-point victory over Limerick to reach their first Munster final in 11 years and secure their spot in the race for Sam Maguire.
As expected, they were no match for All-Ireland champions Kerry and were blown away by 14 points, but there’s no shame in that. Donegal, in Ennis, from the outside looking in, presented the perfect opportunity for Clare to get their year back on track.
And the game seemed to sum up their season. That deflating Donegal defeat means that it’s more or less do or die for Clare ahead of their final round clash with Ulster champions Derry. If they are to remain in the competition, they need to win on Sunday.
But so do Monaghan and as always, home advantage will be a huge aid. The Farney men, quite similarly to Clare, have had a turbulent 2023 but when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Like they always seem to do, Monaghan retained their Division One status before coming back from the dead to overcome Tyrone in the Ulster Championship in the most dramatic of circumstances, with Ryan O’Toole bagging a late goal to win the game.
Their first clash with Derry was as one-sided a match-up as you could imagine in the Ulster Championship and the Oakleaf County breezed through to the provincial final. Monaghan on the other hand, were left to stew for five weeks and lick their wounds.
But they did some work in that extended break as well. And Vinny Corey made some bold calls that would have raised serious questions of the Clontibret man had Monaghan failed to perform against Derry.
Corey replaced experience with pace and based on the evidence of the last day out, his experiment paid off. Although there was still plenty of knowhow on the pitch, in the form of Rory Beggan, Kieran Duffy, Conor McCarthy and the returning Ryan McAnespie.
Suddenly, back in from the wilderness, Monaghan look like a team to be reckoned with, but must back it up in front of their home crowd. If Corey elects to go with the same plan, then their bench press late on in the game should see them through.
2007 Clare 0-6 Monaghan 0-19 (Ennis)
MONAGHAN pulled away to climb to the top of Division 2A with a comfortable win over a Páidí Ó Sé managed Banner in Ennis.
The sides were level, 0-3 each, after 17 minutes before star man Thomas Freeman put the Farney County ahead minutes later.
The Ulster men’s running game saw them 0-9 to 0-4 ahead at the break and well on their way to picking up both points.
Monaghan: S Duffy; D Morgan, D Hughes, C Flanagan; D Mone (0-1), V Corey, JP Mone (0-1); E Lennon, P Finlay (0-2f); C Hanratty, S Gollogly (0-3), D Freeman; T Freeman (0-8, 3f), S Smith (0-3), C McManus
Subs: R Woods for C Hanratty (45), P Meegan for S Smith (58), D Clerkin for C McManus (62), N Corrigan for D Freeman (62), G McQuaid for D Hughes (64)
Clare: Joe Hayes; L Healy, C Whelan, G Kelly; G Lyons, D Kelly, D Callinan; D Russell, G Quinlan; F O’Dea (0-2), John Hayes, E Coughlan; M O’Dwyer, G Brennan, R Donnelly (0-4, 3f)
Subs: M O’Shea for John Hayes (43), M Murphy for D Callinan (45), D Molohan for M O’Dwyer (58), S Monaghan for D Russell (65), A Nagle for D Kelly (68)
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
2007 Clare 0-9 Monaghan 0-19 – NFL Div 2A
2005 Clare 2-2 Monaghan 0-8 – NFL Div 2A
2004 Monaghan 4-9 Clare 1-12 – NFL Div 2A
2005 Clare 2-10 Monaghan 1-19 NFL Div 2B
1999 Monaghan 0-5 Clare 2-7- NFL Div 1B
SEASON SO FAR
Kerry 0-14 Clare 0-13
Clare 0-8 Cork 2-10
Clare 0-13 Louth 1-9
Meath 4-8 Clare 0-16
Clare 0-15 Kildare 0-16
Dublin 0-16 Clare 1-12
Clare 1-8 Cork 3-10
Derry 0-14 Clare 0-4
Clare 2-18 Limerick 0-9
Clare 0-14 Cork 0-13
Limerick 0-16 Clare 1-16
Kerry 5-14 Clare 0-15
Clare 0-9 Donegal 0-14
Dr McKenna Cup
Down 2-10 Monaghan 0-12
Monaghan 0-15 Donegal 2-7
Armagh 1-14 Monaghan 1-12
Kerry 3-16 Monaghan 0-14
Monaghan 1-20 Donegal 0-15
Monaghan 0-14 Roscommon
Galway 1-13 Monaghan 0-10
Monaghan 0-13 Tyrone 2-15
Mayo 0-14 Monaghan 2-14
Monaghan 2-17 Tyrone 1-18
Derry 1-21 Monaghan 2-10
Derry 0-14 Monaghan 0-14
Eoin Cleary 0-39 (25f)
Keelan Sexton 2-26 (7f, 1 pen)
Emmett McMahon 0-33 (11f)
Micheál Bannigan 0-31 (16f, 1 45)
Conor McManus 1-25 (1 pen, 16f, 4m)
Conor McCarthy 1-17 (9f)
Jack McCarron 0-17 (10f, 2m)
Stephen O’Hanlon 1-14