Farney out to ease last year’s Dubs heartache

By Shaun Casey

IT’S back to the scene of the crime for Vinny Corey and his Monaghan men as they return to Croke Park with last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin still fresh in their minds.

Everyone had Monaghan written off as they contested for a spot in the All-Ireland final, not that there’s anything new there, but the Farney men headed to Jones’ Road with a belief they could pull off a shock.

And for long periods of that entertaining encounter, they looked like they could do just that but as has been the case for many teams over the last decade, Dublin pushed ahead in the final quarter to earn a narrow win.

While victory over Dessie Farrell’s side this Sunday won’t do much to heal the wounds of 2023, it would set Monaghan off on the right foot as they hope to secure another season in the top tier.

As has been the norm for most of Monaghan’s ten-year stint in Division One, they once again kick off the campaign as the bookies favourites to be relegated. And their recent defeat to Donegal in the McKenna Cup semi-final did their odds no favours.

After seeing off Antrim and Fermanagh in the group stages, Monaghan’s performance against Jim McGuinness’ side was without the battling spirit that we have come to expect from the Oriel County.

There were a few bright sparks in the McKenna Cup with sharpshooters David Garland and Stephen Mooney both catching the eye in their five-point first-round win over Antrim, hitting 1-3 and 0-5 respectively.

Mooney top scored against Donegal after entering the fray inside the first few minutes, scoring 0-8, while All-Star wing back Conor McCarthy earned his first start since that crushing defeat to Dublin, although he did go off injured inside the opening quarter.

McCarthy’s inclusion this weekend is currently unknown, but one thing for sure is that Corey will have to plot without the experienced Kieran Hughes, who recently hung up the boots and announced his retirement from the inter-county scene.

Older heads such as Darren Hughes and Conor McManus are likely to sit out the first few rounds but should be made available towards the latter stages of the league, while Rory Beggan hasn’t featured so far in 2024 and won’t this weekend with his focus on a potential American football career.

It’s an opportunity for Monaghan to measure themselves against the best this early in the season and although the All-Ireland champions will be favourites, their Ulster counterparts usually put it up to them in Croker.

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