By Kieran Lynch
CLONTIBRET are on the highest of highs heading into this week’s Monaghan Senior Football Championship semi-final, after a last gasp goal got them through the group stage.
With the seconds ticking away, they were heading out of the championship at the hands of Scotstown, before a late, late goal levelled the scores at 1-11 apiece and sent them through, whilst also securing top spot in the group.
However, their experienced manager Mick O’Dowd was a calm head amidst all the drama.
“I’ve been at this longer than most, so I have kind of gotten used to the ups and downs,” he laughed.
“When we counted on video afterwards, I think that there were 26 men around the Scotstown square, and thankfully the shot got in somehow.
“The lads took great heart from it, and we had spoken to them beforehand saying that there is no such thing as a lost cause, and to never give up or give in, and the boys certainly didn’t.
“When we needed the goal Conor McManus landed a couple of peaches on the edge of the square, and the second landed and big Frank [Hughes] swung his right boot at it and got the goal – only his second ever in the championship.
“Because the group was so tight, it was looking like we were heading into the relegation group, but instead of relegation, we topped the group, all because of that goal.”
Awaiting them in the final four is Ballybay, who Clontibret defeated 0-11 to 1-7 in the group stage, but they come into the game in flying form having bulldozed Truagh 3-13 to 0-8 in the quarter-final.
“The last game won’t have any bearing on this one. Anytime Clontibret and Ballybay have met in the past few years, it has been decided by a point either way,” was O’Dowd’s assessment of the upcoming fixture.
“The two teams are very equal, and the game that we won was played in awful weather, and we were at home, so that might have given us a wee bit of an edge.
“But Ballybay played Truagh in the quarter-final, and I was at the game, and they just obliterated them. It was almost hard for us to watch, because you would have to say that Ballybay were very impressive.
“But we’ll be prepared for them, and they’ll be prepared for us. They’ll have learned from their game against us, and hopefully we will have learned from it too.”
With top spot secured, Clontibret earned a semi-final spot and consequently had an extra week to prepare. Some managers prefer to keep momentum building by playing week on week, but O’Dowd was happy with the extra time off.
“Personally, I think that it’s a good thing,” he said. “With the other team playing last week, they’re always going to pick up knocks and niggles from those types of games.
“On the other side, they probably have momentum now from winning, but we should be fresh. We had a few niggles ourselves, and it just gives them that extra bit of time to get ready.”
Clontibret will be hoping to reach the Monaghan final for the first time since 2019, but when asked whether he hopes that his team don’t leave it so late to find the winning score this time around, O’Dowd was straight to the point.
“I don’t care if it comes 10 minutes into injury time – I don’t care if it’s the next day! As long as we get through, that’s all that matters.”