By Shaun Casey
MONAGHAN take on Derry in Sunday’s Ulster Minor Championship final and the sides will cross swords for the third time this season, with the Farney men hoping to pick up their first win over Damian McErlain’s team.
In the league, the Oak Leaf County notched a two-point victory before seeing off Monaghan by 11 points in the group stages of the championship. Malone believes his side, who reached the final via a penalty shootout win over Tyrone, will be up against it.
“I’ve watched a lot of Derry and they were unfortunate to be beaten in the league final (by Donegal) and I think they’ve been in three (Ulster) finals in the last few years, so they have loads of experience,” said the Monaghan boss.
“I admire them, they play a lovely brand of football. Their average winning margin in the championship is 16-points across the five or six games which is really impressive.
“I’ve seen the Dublins and the Corks and the Kerrys and the Mayo’; the Galways and Derry seem to be the best team in Ireland at the minute, so we’ll have our work cut out.
“They have a wealth of experience; they are a hugely impressive outfit and they’re going to take a hell of a lot of stopping to win the All-Ireland this year never mind an Ulster title.
“We’ve had two humbling from them. They beat us the first day out and then they beat us very comfortably up in Owenbeg in the first round of the championship and the scoreline probably flattered us to be honest.
“They were probably expecting to play Tyrone in the final so it’s maybe a bit of a bonus for them that we knocked Tyrone out.”
Monaghan showed real character to come from behind and overthrow the Red Hands, the reigning champions, which pleased their manager.
“A bit of resilience is what the lads showed and it’s great to see it,” added Malone.
“It’s not easy for anybody at any age group or any level of sport to come back from five-points down and to do it with points, especially in the second half of extra time. We definitely showed loads of character and I’m very proud of how they performed when the pressure was on.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the Derry and Monaghan youngsters, but Malone supports the week-on-week approach taken by Ulster GAA, who deserve “a lot of credit.”
“I’m actually a fan of it. It’s the same for both teams, it’s great, I don’t enjoy sitting around in limbo and I know as a player, I didn’t enjoy it so it’s great to have games week on week. Yes, you’ll have injuries and players will be sore, but it’s going to be the same for both teams.
“I think Ulster GAA have to get a lot of credit. I’ve spoken to a lot of managers in different provinces and they’re envious of how the Ulster Championship is ran and the Ulster league so it’s fantastic.”