They’ve been like ships passing in the night this year, but Colin Walshe hopes he and Drew Wylie can soon resume their formidable partnership in Monaghan’s fullback line.
In Rory Gallagher’s opinion that could be as early as tomorrow, with the Donegal manager expecting Monaghan to thrust Wylie back into action after his recent cruciate scare in their Ulster Senior Football Final clash at Clones (2pm).
Walshe has only recently made a successful return from a cruciate knee ligament injury sustained against Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
He came on late in the first round win over Cavan, kicking an important point, and then started his first game of the season in the Ulster semi-final win over Fermanagh.
But just as the 2013 All Star cornerback returned, fullback Wylie was crocked in a club game and sat out the win over Fermanagh with what was feared to be a season-ending injury.
“Funny enough, I had been giving him advice on what to do before the (cruciate) operation and everything!” says Walshe.
“It was something we had talked about when I trying to get back.
“I told him I was looking forward to getting back in beside him and it’s unfortunate that just as I was coming back, he has kind of gone out of the scene again.
“Luckily I suppose, it got cleared up pretty quickly.
“The medial is still a serious enough injury but he will be back a lot quicker than the nine months a cruciate takes anyway.”
With Donegal forwards Paddy McBrearty and Colm McFadden operating at a far higher level than they were a year ago, whoever ends up patrolling the Monaghan fullback line tomorrow will be under extreme pressure.
Between keeping tabs on that pair, and Neil Gallagher when he decides to trot up into full-forward, Monaghan will have their hands full. And that’s without even talking about Michael Murphy.
“McBrearty has been going well so far and McFadden is playing in a more withdrawn role and putting in big games for them too.
“But we always knew that about Donegal.
“We’ve always said it, they have one of the best full-forward lines in the country, they are top, top players and Murphy is floating in and out whenever he wants.”
The monster frees Murphy has nailed in Donegal’s three wins over Tyrone, Armagh and Derry could hardly escape Monaghan’s attention, and Walshe knows when the team is on the back foot, they can’t concede cheap frees.
“He has taken his free-taking to a whole other level this year, he’s taking them from crazy distances, and so consistently as well.
“Discipline is something we have to hone in on, because I know we did give up a lot of frees to Fermanagh and Cavan.
“They might have let us off the hook - but I don’t think Michael Murphy will.”
Walshe labelled Donegal’s win over Armagh as “faultless” and while Derry’s stubborn resistance in the semi-final gives them every reason for hope, he admits Monaghan have laboured in reaching their third final in a row.
“We definitely weren’t holding anything back, but we wouldn’t have been happy with our two performances so far.
“We felt we hadn’t played to our potential but look, we got our two wins and are back in the final.
“It’s true that people probably expected us to come out of that side of the draw, but they were tricky games to get through.
“The other side of the draw, nobody could have predicted.
“Donegal were in an All-Ireland final last year, but when you saw the route to get to Ulster final, not too many would have been putting money on them.
“But they have done very well, bounced back from the disappointment of losing an All-Ireland final, drove on and are in a fifth final in a row.
“They have come through a minefield to get to the final and fair dues to them.
“They’ve been the dominant force in Ulster football for a while and there is a big rivalry between the two of us.” Neither camp are addressing it as a ‘best of three’ despite having won one Ulster final each in the past two years.
Inside the dressing-rooms, however, you can be sure reputations, pride and personal battles are all the players are thinking about.
“I suppose it’s just because we’ve been apart in the draw for the past three years that we’ve kept meeting in finals, “At this stage there is probably not too much the teams don’t know about the other.
“We have been pulling at their tails, but they have been the team to beat.
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