Sunday, July 21 is a date that will live long in the memories of Monaghan supporters but for players and management it was Wednesday, July 10 where the plan to beat Donegal came together.
In a behind-closed-doors game against Mayo at Pearse Park, they groomed their tactics for their Ulster final tilt, edging out James Horan’s side with a last-gasp goal.
Mayo found the exercise just as useful coming up against a swarm defence for the first time in quite a while. But it was Monaghan who were the main benefactors as they honed their preparations to match and beat Donegal.
“There were a few big hits,” said one person who was in the stadium that evening, “with Monaghan initiating most of them. Tommy Freeman got a goal at the end and Monaghan won by two.”
After Sunday’s victory, Kieran Hughes acclaimed the usefulness of the match: “We played a challenge match a couple of weeks ago and a couple of forwards came off and we said to ourselves, ‘Do you know something, we have a serious squad of players’.”
Manager Malachy O’Rourke agreed: “It wasn’t so much that but more we wanted to play in a certain way and we wanted to get match practice. I never read much into practice matches but it was a good run-out. I’m sure it stood to us.”
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