Why Conor McManus won’t complain about challenging schedule

Monaghan star Conor McManus has insisted that they won't complain about apparently drawing the Championship's short straw.
Why Conor McManus won’t complain about challenging schedule
Conor McManus: ‘These are exceptional times and exceptional circumstances.’
Conor McManus: ‘These are exceptional times and exceptional circumstances.’

Monaghan star Conor McManus has insisted that they won't complain about apparently drawing the Championship's short straw.

The 2018 All-Ireland semi-finalists will start off in the preliminary round of the Ulster football championship against Cavan later this year.

Add in their two Allianz League games and that's six successive weekends of action if they beat Cavan, Antrim and then Fermanagh/Down to make the Ulster final.

If the 2013 and 2015 Ulster champions regain the title they'd almost certainly play holders Dublin next in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

It's a punishing programme of games that will follow a Monaghan club championship campaign that guarantees four group games for all teams.

"In an ideal world you wouldn't have this glut of fixtures," said three-time All-Star McManus. "But the bottom line is that three months, maybe even only six or eight weeks ago, it wasn't looking like we'd have any football this year so I'm not going to sit here complaining about it.

"Yes, it's going to be tough and challenging on the body, and you're going to have to expect injuries, that's going to be par for the course, but these are exceptional times and exceptional circumstances. It was always going to be a hell of an ask to squeeze club and county into the timeframe we've got."

Like Monaghan and Cavan, Cork and Kerry will face off in a winner takes all Munster semi-final showdown. But if Kerry advance as expected they'll be roaring favourites to win the provincial final, placing them just two steps from heaven.

Monaghan, meanwhile, will have to win four gruelling provincial games just to get out of Ulster with Dublin then probably waiting.

With a history of dodgy hips, McManus could be forgiven for wincing at the thought of it all.

"It (hips issues) is a thing that never goes away, it's something you're just constantly taking care of and managing," said the International Rules forward.

"Would it have been better for me if we'd kept going with the League back in spring? Absolutely. By the time March rolled around I was in good enough shape but it's another of those things really, you just get on with it."

Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney's task will be to make sure his team is peaking for the Cavan game but is also durable enough to potentially survive six successive weekends of action.

"There's no real way of structuring that to perfection because you also have club games coming before, normally the club comes after the county, so it's a really interesting one," said McManus.

"I think all you can do is just reassess the whole thing after the club championship and see where players are at individually and take it from there."

The flipside is that if Monaghan do win this year's Ulster championship it would probably be their sweetest yet and up there with their greatest achievements.

"There's no doubt it's shaping up as one of the toughest Ulster championships," said the Clontibret man. "The way I'm looking at it, and I think you're going to be hearing this from a lot of players this year, is that we can't look past Cavan. I don't think we can even dream of winning Ulster titles because whoever loses that first game is gone, the season is over."

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