There was nothing unexpected yesterday about his team’s progression to another provincial semi-final, but more adventure, more creativity, will be needed from here on in.
“I felt we were okay,” said O’Rourke, who has taken Monaghan to the last four of Ulster in all of the five years he’s been in charge.
“We played well at times, but we still have a lot of improving to do and we’ll need it going forward.”
Monaghan found Cavan a difficult handful for long spells, at Kingspan Breffni, with the home side still in there, fighting, after 74 minutes.
Only the width of the post denied Cavan a replay, rookie sub Ryan Connolly’s shot crashing off the post in the dying seconds.
Monaghan have the potential to move with the times and play a more expansive game, but will also need to improve accuracy — their 15 wides to Cavan’s seven was just one example of their profligacy.
As for yesterday, the game-plan was simple enough: set up defensively in a cagey first-half against a strong wind, choke the hope out of Cavan, soak up whatever was thrown in their direction, and then unleash lethal forwards to get the job done in the last 15 minutes.
The reason it was so effective is because they have the players to tick all those boxes.
From the hard-hitting Drew Wylie, alongside his brave-hearted brother, Ryan, to the excellence of players like Karl O’Connell and Owen Duffy, and then on to the dangerous forwards, like Conor McManus, Jack McCarron, and Conor McCarthy, who made a big impact off the bench.
The sides were level nine times, including six in a hugely combative first-half, but with Cavan frequently taking the wrong option, as they tried to get the ball into the full-forward line, gaps started to show.
Monaghan pounced on the chink, the excellent Duffy driving through the heart of the defence with a long solo run, before passing to McManus.
The two-time All Star had a mixed afternoon, hitting five wides, but he took his goal brilliantly, slotting it perfectly beyond Raymond Galligan on the hour mark.
It was the difference: Monaghan scored an unanswered 1-2 between the 60th and 65th minutes to settle the game.
“They created one absolutely fantastic goal chance,” said Cavan boss, Mattie McGleenan.
“They opened us up and got the right player into the right position at the right time, and Conor made it happen.”
McManus top-scored with 1-4, but it was the performance of Owen Duffy which really caught the eye.
As well as setting up the match-winning goal, he kicked 0-4 from play, including three points in the second-half. Monaghan only managed three points from play in the opening half, compared to six from Cavan.
The hosts took the lead seven times in the opening half, Cian Mackey relishing his role closer to goal, but Monaghan were always on their coat tails.
Goalkeeper Rory Beggan had two superb, long-range dead balls into the wind, one from a ‘45’, as well as a monster free from over 50 metres.
Despite a lack of invention, McManus still got enough ball to nail 0-4 in the first 35 minutes, including two from play, while the best goal chance was carved out by Owen Duffy, whose low shot was blocked on the line by James McEnroe. McManus’s amazing curling kick put Monaghan ahead for the first time in the game, 0-7 to 0-6, after 33 minutes, but Cavan finished the half brightly.
Seanie Johnston (free), James McEnroe, and then Gearoid McKiernan scored to put them 0-9 to 0-7 in front at the interval, McKiernan’s piercing, long-range left-foot shot probably the score of the half. Colin Walshe and McCarron pointed in the third quarter for Cavan, McCarron getting in once for a goal, but Raymond Galligan got fingertips to the shot across goal.
Mackey put in a serious shift for Cavan, and put them ahead, 0-4 to 0-13, in the 58th minute, before the killer score from McManus.
S Johnston 0-4 (4f), N McDemott 0-3 (3f), C Mackey 0-3, J McEnroe, C Moynagh, G McKiernan, L Buchanan 0-1 each, M Reilly 0-1 (f).
C McManus 1-4 (2f), O Duffy 0-4, R Beggan 0-3 (2 45’s, 1f), C McCarthy 0-2, C Walshe, J McCarron 0-1 each.
R Galligan; P Faulkner, J McEnroe, N Murray; K Clarke, C Moynagh, G Smith; L Buchanan, G McKiernan; C Madden, M Reilly, N Clerkin; N McDermott, S Johnson, C Mackey.
C Brady for Madden (26), D McVeety for Buchanan (HT), R Connolly for McDermott (54), J Dillon for Clerkin (64), J McLoughlin for McEnroe (64), C O’Reilly for Murray (70).
R Beggan; F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walshe, V Corey, K O’Connell; N McAdam, K Hughes; G Doogan, K Duffy, O Duffy; D Malone, J McCarron, C McManus.
R McAnespie for Doogan (HT), C McCarthy for Malone (48), D Ward for K Duffy (57), D Mone for D Wylie (68), D Hughes for McCarron (68), S Carey for O Duffy (BC, 70).
Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)