By Shaun Casey
MINUTES before throw in, Monaghan announced four late changes to their previously named starting line-up for their relegation decider against Mayo in Castlebar.
Karl O’Connell and Shane Carey came into the half-back line while Jack McCarron and Conor McManus started as the two corner-forwards. Kieran Duffy and Ryan Wylie were already in the full-back line, Darren Hughes in midfield. The old dogs for the hard road.
Monaghan, like they always do, left it to the final day to secure their spot in Division One and they’ll spend their tenth successive season in the top tier in 2024.
Farney boss Vinny Corey praised the experienced members of the squad that he can call upon and their impact on the rest of the panel.
“It’s massive, especially when you have young boys around,” said Corey, who avoided relegation at his first attempt as manager.
“That’s when you really need the experience just to guide the younger boys along and you saw the contribution the older boys made, you just can’t write those boys off. You can’t buy experience so it’s good that we still have them.
“It’s going to be the tenth year now, it’s definitely a good achievement for this group especially this particular league because we knew going into it that we had to blood a few players and we had a few players travelling, players injured, and we had boys on the older end of the scale that couldn’t play or needed the rest.
“I suppose when you’re trying to balance all that, Division One is a hard place to stay in if you’re trying to do all those things.
“For us to come out of the league having blooded a few new players, having rotated the squad and maybe rested a few older players and trying to leave them fresh and still be in Division One, it’s a good achievement for this group.
“They’re a brilliant bunch of lads and they’ll give it everything.
“They don’t get too bogged down between league games because obviously it’s Division One, you’re going to have good days and bad days.
“But the boys have shown over the last number of years that they always bounce back after the tough days so full credit to them.”
It’s all about the championship now and Monaghan face a difficult trip to Healy Park Omagh in three weeks’ time to take on old foes Tyrone.
The Red Hands won the most recent meeting between the sides, in round six of the league, but Corey was pleased that his men were able to bounce back against Mayo.
“It was a disappointing way it ended up (against Tyrone), especially in the second half, but these things, you take the learnings from them, and you move on.
“I suppose the key thing always in Monaghan is how you bounce back after days like that and in fairness to the boys they bounced back (against Mayo) and that’s all you can ask.”