Three-time All-Star Nudie Hughes feels age has “crept up on” Monaghan and they need to be starting 21-year-old Stephen O’Hanlon regularly.
After four consecutive defeats following the opening day win over Dublin, Malachy O’Rourke’s team can’t slip up in tomorrow’s south Ulster relegation derby with Cavan in Clones. What worried Hughes was how Monaghan were unable to finish off Kerry in Fitzgerald Stadium last Sunday week.
“The team that finished last week, you would expect them to close out the Kerry game, going two points clear with seven minutes to go. They should have been able to hold out for that. They finished with the aged team and strongest team they had and I was worried that is the team you’d be looking to carry you forward in the Championship.
“The under-age is doing well and the structure is there but we have to realise the pick that we have. Some players haven’t come through as we expected. We are still playing the same players, not as Kerry has done, replacing most of the senior team.
“You could be looking at five players dropping out of the system after the Championship is done. Do we have five players coming through? At the moment, we don’t have but when we finish the league and start the run-in to the Championship, we will know what we have.”
How Cork have fallen is a warning for Monaghan should they drop from Division 1, says Hughes.
“Division 2 is a tough league, all you have to do is look at Cork, 165 clubs, and they are bottom of Division 2 as against 30 clubs (in Monaghan) and we are bottom of Division 1. We don’t have the strength that they have but they should be competing at a higher level than we are doing, at the moment.”
Hughes wants Carrickmacross starlet O’Hanlon, goalscorer against Dublin, to be a permanent starter. “I think he will make an huge difference. He has an eye for goal, great ball control and he’s another potential threat along with (Conor) McManus and if we can get our full-forward sorted and hopefully have Kieran Hughes back from injury.
“He should have been the surprise packet last year in the All-Ireland semi-final. I don’t think Tyrone would have been able to handle him because I’d say he could do 100 metres in 11.5 seconds.”
The Castleblayney man foresees a struggle tomorrow but a win nonetheless. “Cavan will be a nail-biting match but I’d expect them to get through it. Cavan are rebuilding under Mickey Graham and they will come to Cones and not have any fears.”