Monaghan look to reach quarters for second year running

By Peter O’Dwyer

Monaghan look to reach quarters for second year running

By Peter O’Dwyer

Monaghan look to reach quarters for the second year running with first Croker victory in 84 years

Your call on who’ll be victorious in the final qualifier round between Kildare and Monaghan can be neatly predicted by whether you place more stock in history or form.

If history’s your poison of choice, the Lillywhites will likely get your vote. If recent performances are held in higher esteem by you however, you’ll almost certainly be proclaiming victory for the Farney County. History certainly isn’t on their side.

It’s now 84 years since Monaghan won a championship game in Croke Park. Peculiarly, as these things tend to be, the beaten men that day hailed from Kildare. The Lillywhites also boast a fearsome qualifier history of 20 wins and a draw from 28 outings.

There’s also the counties’ last championship duel to consider when Kieran McGeeney’s men won out on a scoreline of 1-15 to 1-11 at the same stage five years ago.

In all, Monaghan’s last five championship outings at HQ have ended in defeat, to Kerry in 2007 and 2008; Kildare in 2010; and Tyrone in 2013.

For all that, Monaghan go into this game as favourites and justifiably so.

Despite relinquishing their Ulster title a fortnight ago, the Farney County seem at a level comparable to last year’s performances that were good enough to win an Ulster title – a level Kildare are not operating at just yet.

In Clones, Donegal were the Donegal of 2012 and as such it’s hard to conclude that there’s been much regression in the Monaghan camp despite arguably falling short of their best on the day; rather Donegal returned to a level that Monaghan are yet to show they’re capable of reaching.

Two factors that might lessen that particular blow are, firstly, expectation levels will be less than they were 12 months ago, and secondly, the six day turnaround losing provincial finalists previously had to contend with has been done away with this year. Both Monaghan and the championship should be better off for that particular alteration.

Kildare for their part exited the Leinster title race with all the grace of a child getting accustomed to the sports day sack race and subsequently struggled to get past Clare. The 1-18 to 0-11 defeat of Down is the only highlight of their season so far.

Tomás O’Connor is back in Jason Ryan’s starting 15 however and having played the role of being a rather large nuisance particularly well from the bench against the Banner, Kildare fans will retain some hope that Ryan’s young side could spring a surprise.

O’Connor at full-forward may well be food and drink for the impressive Drew Wylie however. Using a smaller more mobile player to cause Wylie problems could be a more lucrative option even if it means abandoning the sort of game plan that ultimately proved successful the last time out.

Questions also exist over Monaghan’s star forward, albeit questions of a different manner; questions over his fondness for hitting the deck. Ryan this week used the double-edged sword of praising Conor McManus for his free-winning ability. Are you listening Mr Coldrick?

If McManus and his teammates are on song though, it’ll take a helping hand from somewhere for Kildare to win this one. In that light, guess you can’t blame the Lillywhites manager for trying, can you?

KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Michael Foley, Michael O’Grady; Ollie Lyons, Fergal Conway, Keith Cribbin; Tommy Moolick, Pádraig O’Neill; Cathal McNally, Niall Kelly, Eamonn Callaghan; Alan Smith, Tomás O’Connor, Eoghan O’Flaherty.

MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan; Ryan Wylie, Drew Wylie, Colin Walshe; Dessie Mone, Vinny Corey, Fintan Kelly; Dick Clerkin, Darren Hughes; Paudie McKenna, Stephen Gollogly, Paul Finlay; Dermot Malone, Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus.

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