BY KIERAN LYNCH
TWO games in and Monaghan have tasted both defeat and victory to begin their Division Two campaign, but they face their toughest test this weekend, away to Armagh.
Captain Muireann Atkinson reflected on their campaign to this point, and she feels that the team, who are a relatively young squad, will have learned lessons from their opening day 3-14 to 1-6 defeat to Laois.
“I suppose we’re still finding our feet at this early stage of the year,” she said.
“We have a relatively new panel, which has been coming through in recent years. So, we were probably testing different things out in the first game. But after the loss, we sort of got an eye opener, in terms of players having to look at their own performances.
“But we addressed that, took learnings from the Laois game, moved forward, and put it behind us.”
However, Monaghan responded well and bounced back with a 1-12 to 2-4 win over Ulster rivals Tyrone to ‘get the ball rolling’ for their season.
“We were much more productive against Tyrone,” said Atkinson.
“We have played against Tyrone a lot in recent years and there has always only really been a kick of a ball between us. So, we were content after the win, and I think the win came from us being really focused on ourselves individually going into the game.
“We knew that it was vitally important to get a performance, get back on our feet, and get the ball rolling for the rest of our league campaign.”
Reflecting on the team’s stand-out performers from the win, Atkinson mentioned her two vice-captains, but was adamant that every player stepped up in terms of their work-rate.
“Rosemary Courtney and Jennifer Duffy showed real leadership,” she said.
“A number of the relatively newer players stood up and were counted as well; but I think it was a massive team performance all over the pitch, and everyone ticked the work-rate box from the very start, and things came together for us.”
Up next for Monaghan is their most difficult challenge on paper that they will face in the league, as they travel away to the Division Two favourites Armagh. The Farney suffered a couple of heavy defeats against the Orchard County last season, but Atkinson believes that the new team will have to focus on their own games this weekend and see where it takes them.
“It was definitely nice to get the win over Tyrone, but we need to put that behind us, because we have a whole other mountain to climb against Armagh this weekend,” said Atkinson.
“But it’s a new season, and mostly a new set of players compared to last year. There is no doubt that it’s going to be a difficult challenge, because Armagh consider themselves All-Ireland Senior contenders, and rightly so.
“But in terms of us, we need to focus ourselves, we need to focus on our performances as individuals, and then bring that all together as a team.”