Aughnamullen boss not shocked by start

By Kieran Lynch

THE Monaghan Senior Championship always has the ability to throw up surprise packages, and in this year’s competition no side has fit that bill better than Aughnamullen.

Manager Lee Conlan only came into the role at the beginning of June, but he was unable to prevent the team from suffering relegation in the league.

However, the championship has been a different story. After losing out by the slimmest of margins against Latton, they stunned reigning champions Ballybay 3-10 to 1-7 away from home, before defeating Truagh last Saturday.

“Yeah we’re happy with two wins out of three, but we feel as though we should have three out of three, and that’s maybe still playing on our minds,” said Conlan. “We have four points on the board, but we still have work to do to get qualified for the quarter-final, which is our main goal.

“Have we surprised people? It’s definitely not a surprise to me, or to people within the club. Because we know the calibre of player that we have. The likes of Mícheál Bannigan, Darren Geoghegan, Colin Clerkin, Kevin Sheridan, these are players with real quality.

“But we believed that our defensive end of things wasn’t right, and that’s what we worked hard on to improve over the last few weeks.”

In terms of lifting the spirits of the players after a disappointing finish to their league campaign, Conlan said it was up to the players to ‘park it’, and he has been impressed with the commitment they have shown in recent weeks.

“When I came in during the league, we got two wins and a draw, but we weren’t able to take ourselves out of the bottom four,” he said.

“We believed that we were in good form, going into the relegation play-offs, but then we lost two games on the hop, and it sort of knocked us for six.

“But we parked it, and we targeted the quarter-finals in the championship. Credit to the lads, they have knuckled down, put everything else to one side and they have really pushed hard over the last six weeks or so.”

As Conlan alluded to, the job isn’t done yet for Aughnamullen, and they still have one more group game remaining, which takes place against last year’s beaten Ulster Intermediate finalists Corduff next weekend.

“It’s a massive game,” said Conlan.

“There is nothing achieved yet on our end. We were back on the training field on Monday night, and all are concentrating on right now is Corduff.

“It’s a local derby and it’s a big game. I have to give Corduff credit, they have a good system in place, and they’re playing well, with every man singing off the same hymn sheet.

“So, it’s a daunting task, but the lads don’t fear anyone, we’re playing with a weight off our shoulders, and it will be an intriguing battle.”

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