By Shaun Casey
TO secure safety in the top tier, and in any division, earning points on home turf is essential, especially given the tough assignments dished out to Monaghan when on the road.
The travelled south in round two, after their home defeat to neighbours Armagh in the first round, all the way to Killarney and came back up the road with their tails well and truly between their legs.
The chastising defeat handed out by the All-Ireland championship, missing All-stars Sean O’Shea and David Clifford, was enough to make any team wince.
Couple that with the fact that Vinny Corey’s side have upcoming away dates with last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists Galway as well as Mayo in the last round, and it speaks volumes of the importance of home wins.
For now, all of Monaghan’s focus will firmly be on their home games as they have two on the trot, starting with Donegal this weekend followed by a Roscommon visit in round four.
The Farney men will be targeting this weekend’s clash with their old rivals as the perfect opportunity to get their season up and running.
They are two relegation candidates, filling two of three spots at the bottom of the table with only winless Galway separating them, so it’s impossible to describe just how important this game is.
Paddy Carr got his Donegal tenure off to dream start with a last minute score from newly appointed captain Paddy McBrearty edging them past Kerry on the opening day, but joy quickly became agony seven days later.
A slap of reality from the Red Hand County firmly brought the Tir Chonaill men back down to earth as the 2021 All-Ireland champions handed Carr’s side a 0-16 to 0-8 defeat.
Games between Monaghan and Donegal, who have shared an intense rivalry over the last decade when they dominated the provincial scene, are notoriously close and hard to call, and recent league meetings only support that argument.
Of the last three league clashes between the sides, the record stands: Monaghan one, Donegal one and one draw. That tells you all you need to know not only about the competitive nature of the clashes between these two, but what to expect come Sunday afternoon.
It’s going to be intense, it’s going to be close and for both managers it’s certainly going to feel like a must win. That may bring a championship feel to Clones and a sense of the glory days may be revived.
For a decade, Clones was the battle ground where Donegal and Monaghan went to war and fought for the Anglo Celt, but now, two points is the prize for the winner. And what an important two points they could turn out to be.
Minus the star names of Conor McManus, Jack McCarron and the Hughes brothers, Monaghan need to take any advantage that comes their way and with the comforts of Clones on their side, they may just get over the line to kickstart their season.