BY KIERAN LYNCH
CLONTIBRET face two tough challenges in the upcoming weeks in the form of Ballybay and Scotstown, as they look to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Monaghan Senior Championship.
The 2019 championship winners knew they had a difficult group going into the tournament, but having lost to Donaghmoyne in their opener, after being caught out with a late goal, Clontibret have been put on the back foot, and know that they need to get results in their next two games.
“We weren’t pleased to be caught in injury time, but to be fair to Donaghmoyne, they proved that they’re a strong enough outfit,” said manager Mick O’Dowd.
“We were disappointed to lose that game because it put us a wee bit behind the eight-ball if you like. But I suppose that just means that we have to win our games; it becomes like old style championship football.
“Now we have two games left, and with no disrespect to anybody else, they’re against arguably the two best teams going into the Monaghan Championship before a ball was kicked, in Ballybay and Scotstown.”
With Ballybay sitting on five points, and Donaghmoyne fancied to add to their three points with a victory over bottom-placed Aughnamullen, O’Dowd believes that the final group match between Clontibret and Scotstown is shaping up to be a winner-takes-all match-up, with only the top three teams qualifying for the next round.
“If we lose against Ballybay, but defeat Scotstown, we would still go through on four points, on head-to-head,” he explained.
“So, the Scotstown game is arguably more important than the Ballybay game. I think that the format of the championship is grand, but I would prefer if the games were held at neutral venues. The league is played home and away, so I think that the championship games should be neutral – possibly with double headers.
“Our last group game is against Scotstown, who will be at home in our biggest game of the year. It’s shaping up that whoever loses this game is gone from the championship, so I think games like this would be better served in Clones. But we know the rules before we go in, I suppose.”
O’Dowd, who returned to manage his native Clontibret after a stint in Armagh with Ballymacnab needs no reminding of the strength and unpredictability of the Monaghan Senior Championship, and he will know that anything can happen in the coming weeks.
“In 2019, we won the championship, when I was a part of John McEntee’s management team. Then the next year we were in a relegation play-off, and in the following year Truagh beat us in the quarter-final, having scored a goal in the final minute, and they went on to reach the final.
“Now this year, had we won our first game, we would have been almost guaranteed to qualify at this stage, but seeing as we lost our first game, who knows? But that’s the way that football is, isn’t it?”