By Shaun Casey
THE Monaghan minors are back in action this weekend for the first time since their devastating Ulster final defeat to Derry two weeks ago. The Farney men, led by two-time Ulster winner Dermot Malone, lost out in heart-breaking circumstances.
Monaghan fought tooth and nail with the competition favourites and in the end, a penalty shootout was required to decide the destination of the Ulster title.
Monaghan lost out but didn’t have long to lick their wounds as they’re straight into the All-Ireland quarter-finals, where they face Mayo in Carrick-on-Shannon this Saturday.
Malone is hoping that his side aren’t suffering from an Ulster final hangover, but the proof will be in the pudding this weekend.
“It was harder for me to deal with maybe than the players,” laughed Malone.
“It hurt more than a lot of times I would have been playing and I’ve lost Ulster finals as a player, and it’s been tough, and I’ve lost one now as a manager and it’s arguably even tougher.
“But the joys of youth, I think the boys were really downhearted at the time but it’s not too long until they dusted themselves down and the next day they were back on the horse and there were no issues thankfully. I think it’s not affecting them anymore.
“But it’s very hard to know, you can look at things in training and think things are going well and think boys aren’t talking about it and thinking about it, but we’ll not really find that out until Saturday evening.
“I suppose that’s the difference maybe between ourselves and the senior competition. The seniors, you lose an Ulster final and then you go into a new competition and you’re starting a group format completely from scratch.
“Whereas from our perspective, we didn’t win the Ulster final but we’re still into the last eight and it really is do or die straight away. We can’t be feeling that sorry for ourselves or we can’t have a hangover from that game for too long.”
Malone admits he doesn’t know a whole pile about Saturday’s opponents but is expecting a tough test from Mayo. The Westerners reached the All-Ireland decider last year but lost to arch-rivals Galway in the decider by six points.
But they’ve dominated the provincial scene in Connacht over the past two years, claiming back-to-back titles this season, so Malone is well aware of the threat they pose.
“I don’t know a lot about them, but I’ve seen a wee bit of them,” added the Castleblayney clubman, who is in his first year in charge of the Monaghan youngsters.
“I know Mayo won the Connacht Championship last year, they were in the All-Ireland final (last year), and they won a Connacht Championship this year again.
“They’ll have a lot of players playing that will have featured in an All-Ireland final last year so without knowing too much about individual players, when you hear that sort of information, you know they’re going to be good,” he added.