By Shaun Casey
CAN Monaghan upset the odds this weekend and overturn the bookies favourites for the Sam Maguire trophy? You’d have to be a very brave man to place your money on Vinny Corey’s side, an outfit that have welcomed the underdogs’ tag all season long.
From clinging onto their Division One spot with their usually final day heroics, to overcoming Tyrone in Omagh in the opening round of the Ulster Championship and to making it all the way to the last four of the All-Ireland series, Monaghan don’t know when they’re beaten.
But they face a different animal this weekend, an in-form Dublin side that showed all the traits of years gone by when they dismissed Mayo in their last-eight clash.
Monaghan legend Paul Finlay doesn’t see the Farney men altering their style of play for a date with the Dubs, although he would like to see them attack more from the start.
“You can see they’re playing a very structured game; they’re not looking to go toe-to-toe with anybody, I don’t think that’s going to change when it comes to playing Dublin this weekend,” said the Ballybay attacker.
“But they’ll be preparing diligently on their own game-plan, what’s got them here, working wholeheartedly on what they need to do and the level that they’re going to need to bring.
“I think that’s where the focus will be, to try and get themselves ready for a huge performance and bringing the best of what they
have to Croke Park on Saturday evening.
“Probably mirroring what has got them here which has been very structured, defensive and a measured approach to attack. Is that going to be good enough to beat Dublin?
“I personally think they need a very fast start; they need to get points on the board. They need to get themselves into a position where they’re able to fall back into a defensive shape.”
Finlay’s fear is that the opposite happens and it’s Dessie Farrell’s side that make the brighter start to the encounter. Looking back on Monaghan’s recent outings, the chances they are giving up is a concern for Finlay.
“If Dublin can steal a march and start breaking lines then, let’s face it, Armagh had their chances in the first half of the quarter-final,” explained Finlay.
“But for some last-ditch defending and some great blocks, Monaghan could have found themselves in a very different position. Likewise, against Kildare, they coughed up a couple of really good goal chances.
“You have to imagine that Dublin are going to create those chances this weekend and Monaghan are going to have to come up with the answers.
“Yes, they’ll start the game quite cautious and defensive, trying to eke out a couple of scores and after 20 minutes, it’ll be a case of see where we’re at and take it from there.
“It’s a huge, huge task and it’s going to take some performance from Monaghan if they’re going to be in the game in the last ten minutes.”