By Shaun Casey
MONAGHAN are 60 minutes away from their first All-Ireland Minor final since 1939 and standing in their way are 16-time winners Kerry.
While the Farney County don’t have much success in terms of All-Ireland glory, manager Dermot Malone believes his side are where they deserve to be.
“I don’t want people thinking it’s bonus territory,” said Malone, who won two Ulster Championships with Monaghan in 2013 and 2015.
“It’s great to be in a semi-final but I think we have to try and change the mindset in Monaghan among players and supporters: that we’re not just here because we’re lucky to be here. We’re here based on merit, and we’ll do everything in our power to try and win it.
“There’s probably a bit of romance about it, Kerry traditionally have been the best team in Ireland, when I was growing up and watching them and they do have some very fine footballers.
“I’ve seen them a lot this year, I watched the Kildare game, I saw them in the Munster final and I saw them in the first round of the Munster Championship, they have some absolutely phenomenal footballers.
“The likes of Paddy Lane inside and Evan Boyle in midfield, those two boys would walk onto any team in the country, and they’ll take a lot of beating.
“They’re Munster champions, they beat Kildare well enough (in the All-Ireland quarter-final), and they were missing a few players that day, they have one or two players to come back who weren’t able to play.”
Monaghan were fairly impressive in their own All-Ireland quarter-final win over Mayo, securing an eight-point victory to reach the last four.
But there’s still room for improvement says Malone, and they weren’t pleased with certain elements of their performance.
“We were maybe happy with the result, if you had told me in advance that was the result we were going to win, I’d have been delightedt but regards the performance, we definitely left loads behind us.
“There were a lot of scores and unnecessary turnovers that we gave away and balls kicked over sidelines, so we’re in the position where we were happy to get a result, but there’s loads to work on, which is not a bad way to be.”
The hard work has been done at this stage of the year and it’s just about refining the skills of the game and adjusting tactical areas, which make up the majority of Monaghan’s training sessions.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel or doing anything new,” added Malone, enjoying his first year in charge of the Monaghan youngsters.
“We’re just working on all the basic skills, small little tactical tweaks and changes and trying to keep boys fresh and injury free because the games have been coming thick and fast and there’s a lot happening.
“We’re trying to balance a lot of plates at the minute and getting boys into the panel and keeping them fresh and keeping them sharp.
“There’s nothing majorly new, just little tweaks here and there,” the Oriel boss added.