By Kieran Lynch
BALLYBAY are well on course to qualify for the next round of the Monaghan Senior Championship, having picked up two wins and a draw from their opening three group matches.
Jerome Johnston and Mark Doran’s side sit at the top of Group One and will book their place in the semi-finals if they win their next game against Clontibret.
Even if they are defeated in that game, it’s likely that they’ll have enough points on the board to secure a top-three finish in the five-team group and take their place in the quarter-finals.
With the Pearse Brothers in such good form, vice-captain Brent Wylie – Eoin McKearney is captain – says that the team are happy with where they are, but that they are not the finished article yet.
“If we were given five points out of a possible six at the start, we would have been very happy with it, but in each game, even though we might have got the result, we have still taken learnings,” said Wylie.
“We’re happy with where we are at the moment, but we still have another game to go in the group stage. In every game, we’re going out and giving our best performance, we’re not holding anything back.”
Even though Paul Finlay retired from the inter-county scene with Monaghan in 2016, the evergreen forward remains a key man in Ballybay, and he has continued to perform on a consistent basis for his club even into his elder years.
His performances have helped the team’s good start, which included a statement win over last year’s champions Scotstown, and Wylie says that the team are growing in confidence as the campaign goes.
“Yeah we can take confidence from that win, but I feel like we’re building confidence with every game,” he said.
“We’re happy with the win, but there is no championship won by just winning one game. So, we still have to build on that.”
However, despite their good start, last year’s beaten semi-finalists (they lost to Truagh Gaels) will know that they have a long way to go before they can reach this year’s decider, and Wylie believes that Monaghan has the most difficult championship to win of all.
“I would say that Monaghan probably has the most competitive championship in the whole country,” he stated.
“There are ten teams in it, and there’s not one team that you could rule out. In the opening weekend there were four games and the average winning margin was two to three points. I don’t think that there are many championships around the country that could say that.
“What that means is that in every game you have to be super focussed, like we can’t take our eye off the ball, and because all 10 teams are good, the league is also very competitive.
“Because it’s so tight, you have to be tuned in for training and be well prepared for every game,” Wylie added.