By Kieran Lynch
SCOTSTOWN are back in the Monaghan Senior Football Championship final for the tenth year in-a-row where they will take on Ballybay this Sunday, but it has been anything but plain sailing for the reigning champions to get to this point.
Colin McAree’s side headed into the championship with injuries to four key players: Orin Heaphey, Jack McDevitt, Paul Sherlock, and Kieran Hughes, and young players Killian McKenna, Darragh Murray, Joey McKenna, Sean Treanor, and Mark McPhillips all had to step up and make their debuts this season.
Heading into the final, McDevitt and Sherlock will definitely be available for selection, whilst An Bhoth remain hopeful for the returns of Heaphey and Hughes. Wunderkinds McKenna and Treanor will be hoping to keep their places in the starting team, having made the first 15 for Scotstown’s semi-final win over Inniskeen.
“It has been a difficult season; there is no point in saying otherwise,” said McAree of the team’s journey to the final.
“We had a number of long-term injuries which affected the team, so it meant that we probably had to bring in a few new debutants before we thought that we would need to, but they have acquitted themselves really well.
“Having lost against Ballybay in the first game, it took us a while to settle and recover.
“And we played a couple of games after in really poor conditions, so it was hard to judge where we were at.”
Scotstown encountered bumps along the road that would have seen many a car written off, but they kept motoring on despite the fuel tank looking low at points.
They went into the final group game against Clontibret knowing that defeat would knock them out of the championship, before they were on the ropes against Latton in the quarter-final, somehow surviving the onslaught to take the game to penalties where they were victorious.
“I don’t think that there is any question of that (the team’s mentality). The boys have proven it over the years,” reflected McAree on his side’s ability to overcome challenges.
“I thought we put in a good performance against Clontibret, it was just unfortunate that we got a wee bit of bad luck at the end.
“Against Latton, they could have easily beaten us on the day, but we had a bit of luck and we used our experience to get back into the game. If Latton had taken their chances we would have been out of the championship.”
Scotstown may have followed up that showing with their most impressive championship performance to date, in a 3-8 to 0-12 win over Inniskeen, but McAree believes that his team must improve if they are to defeat Ballybay in this weekend’s final, having lost against Jerome Johnston and Mark Doran’s men earlier in the campaign.
“There are going to be difficult moments in any final; particularly against Ballybay with their attacking threat,” said the Scotstown boss.
“We’ll have to rely on our experience and our knowhow, but one thing we are certain of, is when it comes down to it, our lads will give everything that they have, and they will compete for every ball.
“The boys are eagerly waiting for the game – they know that they have a lot to prove, and we know that maybe we come into the games as favourites because of our experience, but Ballybay have played the better football all year.
“So, we know that we need a remarkable improvement – but that’s the test.”