By Shaun Casey
MONAGHAN were crowned Lory Meagher Cup champions for the first time in their history last weekend as they saw off Lancashire following a high scoring affair, winning 3-22 to 3-20 in the end.
It was a “fairytale finish” according to manager Arthur Hughes. Monaghan drew with Leitrim before losing to Cavan in the opening two rounds of the competition but came good in the end to get their hands on the trophy.
“You put in the work all year and ultimately that’s what you put it im for, to be in front at the final whistle on the last day and it was fitting that it was in Croke Park, and it was a fairytale finish for us,” said Hughes.
“We did think after the first two games of the competition that we were out of it, but we knuckled down and got three wins in a row and that brought us to Croke Park and we turned up on the big day and got the job done.”
Relief was the overriding emotion when the final whistle eventually sounded and getting to climb the famed steps of the Hogan Stand was the accumulation of a lot of hard work put in over the years The dedication and sacrifice finally paid off.
“It was a relief. We were trying to think of how many trainings, it would be near 100 trainings from we met up at the start of the year,” the manager continued.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of effort, we have three or four boys that their wives are expecting in the next week or two and that takes its toll as well.
“Cathal McAnespie had to forgo his sister’s wedding to be there and then went to the wedding after, those are just the wee sacrifices you have to make. It’s nice for those boys to get the rewards for the work that they put in.
“The backroom team as well, Aidan Morgan, Jimmy Lacey, Declan Crowe have done savage work and it’s nice for them to get their rewards as well, along with the county board.
“I was shocked by the amount of support Monaghan had at the game, it was a great day, and it was great to put on a performance and come out the right side. There were people there that I hurled with that never got that chance and they were delighted too.
“Monaghan hurling was at a low ebb a couple of years ago and Monaghan was the last county in Ireland and across the seas to get to Croke Park, so it was an achievement in itself to get there but some of these boys, that wasn’t enough, they wanted to win.”
Goals win games and hitting the net is something Monaghan have excelled in recently. In their last four games, including Saturday’s showpiece, the Farney men have rattled off 12 goals, but that’s easy when you have the attackers that Monaghan do.
“You’re dealing with a full hand when you have the six forwards that we have,” added Hughes.
“Every one of them can get a score, maybe some not so much goal scorers but the likes of Ethan (Flynn) and the two Nialls (Arthur and Garland) can score goals for fun, Stephen Lambe can chip in.
“We have plenty of options and it’s just getting the right ball into the right man and hoping he takes the right option.
“We maybe starved our forwards a wee bit but you’re not going to dictate the game for 70 minutes but overall, I think we were slightly the better team.”