One man’s feast is another man’s famine, and so it proved at Clones on Sunday as Malachy O’Rourke’s Monaghan proved they had more hunger for the Ulster title than All-Ireland champions Donegal.
O’Rourke’s side didn’t just inflict a first ever Ulster championship defeat on Donegal boss Jim McGuinness, they also shattered the belief that this Tir Chonaill side is invincible.
Make no mistake, Monaghan deserved every inch of their 0-13 to 0-7 win over the 2012 Ulster and All-Ireland champions.
Playing on home soil and in front of a sell-out crowd, they were out of the traps like greyhounds and well on their way to victory when they led by five points before Colm McFadden finally opened Donegal’s account in the 32nd minute.
As more than one observer noted, Donegal were out Donegal-ed by Monaghan if that’s possible.
First to every ball, dominated in the central third of the field and sharper in front of goal, Monaghan were never headed in a game beyond their wildest dreams.
They were three points ahead, 0-5 to 0-2, at the interval and six clear at the finish as they condemned Donegal to a qualifier date with Laois in Carrick-on-Shannon this Saturday.
And manager O’Rourke admitted belief and willpower, when no-one else believed in them, was a huge factor for his team.
A delighted O’Rourke told reporters afterwards, “We were written off and you’re bound to get a bit of energy out of that but we could understand why it was because Donegal have been brilliant in the championship over the last number of years.
“And we didn’t play all that well but I knew there was a big performance in the boys and I told them that. People were judging us on the performances against Antrim and Cavan and we weren’t judging ourselves on those performances.
“We knew there was more to come and luckily enough that’s what happened today.”
The blistering start to the game – they were four points up after just seven minutes – was all part of the Monaghan plan according to O’Rourke.
He added, “We felt we had to make a good start. Donegal hadn’t been behind in many of their matches, but if they had to chase the game from the off, we knew we could make life hard for them.”
Monaghan’s first Ulster title win since 1988 will be celebrated for a long time to come by their fans, but star man Conor McManus is adamant there is more to come for the Farney men on the field of play this summer.
“We knew we had the players. We knew we had the talent in that dressing room, that’s as good a squad as there is anywhere in Ireland I believe,” McManus said.
“We knew we had that ability and we went out and delivered. We worked hard. From the start of the year every man worked hard, there were no excuses and we delivered. This is as good as it gets so far but we’re not finished yet.”
While Monaghan await the identity of their next opponents in the All-Ireland quarterfinals, Donegal must get straight back to work for Saturday’s qualifier against Laois.
Still shocked by the defeat, captain Michael Murphy insisted the All-Ireland champions will bounce back in Carrick-on-Shannon.
He told the Irish Sun, “What happened happened and it’s history. It is all about regrouping for us now. We win together and we lose together and we’ll take this on the chin. We’ve come a hell of a long way in the last three years, and we’re not about to stop now.”
Manager McGuinness acknowledged that Monaghan wanted to win the Ulster title more than his All-Ireland winners.
“The competition is over for us now and we’ve got to refocus our energy for next week, and that’s what is ahead of us. Monaghan had beaten Donegal twice in the last six years and we knew the threat they were bringing,” he said.
“Monaghan were the better team overall, they were the hungrier team and were more clinical up front when they got the chances.
“We weren’t our usual self. I suppose we have to look at that in terms of our own performance, it’s probably a wee bit early at this stage to say why.”
Donegal must play again on Saturday when Mark McHugh, concussed in the early stages of Sunday’s defeat, is unlikely to feature.
McGuinness added, “The bottom line is we have six days. That’s the rules that govern the competition. There is no point crying about it.”
McGeeney Future in Doubt
KIERAN McGeeney may be forced out of his position as Kildare manager after Saturday night’s 1-11 to 0-12 defeat to Tyrone in the qualifiers, but he won’t leave without a fight.
The former Armagh player is under real pressure for the first time in his six-year tenure, and he fired a broadside at the critics in a post match interview with local radio station, KFM.
McGeeney said, “You just have to keep going. There are people out there who will tear you apart. I played with a few of these boys and these fellas were cowards when they were playing and they are cowards now when they tear these fellas apart.
“You just have to accept that from people. You have good people out there too. They will analyze the game and they will see the sloppiness.
“You have to take that sort of thing on the chin. That’s good analysis of a game. You have to take that and move on. The naysayers and the people who are there for entertainment, you just ignore them and get on with it.”
McGeeney has yet to make any decision on his future, but star forward Johnny Doyle has urged the Kildare County Board to keep faith with their manager.
Kildare could face a fine after match referee Joe McQuillan was jostled by some fans as he left the pitch on Saturday night.
Tyrone, meanwhile, will face Meath in the final round of the qualifiers at Croke Park this Saturday with major concerns over the fitness of defender Cathal McCarron.
Laois Will Improve for Donegal
LAOIS booked their spot in the final series of All-Ireland qualifiers with a 0-16 to 2-8 win over wasteful Wexford on Saturday, but manager Justin McNulty knows they will need to improve against Donegal this Saturday.
McNulty said, “It’s a matter of progression. We got the result in the end. We will now look forward and prepare for the next game.
“All I can say is that we’ll have to improve for if we play to that standard again we won’t win the next game. That’s the reality of the situation.
“We must look to improvement, especially regarding the number of chances we present to our opponents. While we had only two wides, Wexford kicked something like 15, while also creating more goal opportunities.
“That’s the reality of the situation and leaves us with much to work on. That’s something the players will be looking at as well, for if improvement is not forthcoming, we’ll be out of the championship next time out.”
Galway Too Much for Armagh
GALWAY shocked Armagh with a 1-11 to 0-9 win in the All-Ireland qualifiers on Saturday and now meet Cork in the next round of games at Croke Park this weekend.
Star man Sean Armstrong insists they will travel to Dublin in confident mood. “There is an inner-belief there now after the Armagh game. We knew we could win and that there was a big one in us,” he said.
“Hopefully there is an even bigger one in us next week. Again, we’ll be underdogs so there is no pressure at all on us. We have to build on that performance and push on again.”
Proud Cavan Fools Critics
CAVAN boss Terry Hyland had a shot across pundit Joe Brolly’s bows after his team’s 1-22 to 0-20 extra-time win over Derry in the All-Ireland qualifiers at Celtic Park on Saturday.
Brolly and Derry’s Paddy Bradley had dismissed Cavan on Twitter before the game and Hyland said, “People say silly things some times that come back to haunt them.
“When somebody puts something up on a public forum, it’s there for everyone to see and people will always react. Maybe they should relax for an hour and think before they start tweeting.”
One More for London
LONDON’S Connacht title dream was ended swiftly by Mayo in a 5-11 to 0-10 rout at Castlebar on Sunday, but the exiles do have the consolation of a Croke Park appearance to come.
Paul Coggins’ side will now play Cavan in the final round of the All-Ireland qualifiers at headquarters at 3 p.m. this Saturday. That game will be followed by Cork against Galway and Meath against Tyrone in a triple header.
All-Ireland champions Donegal will face Laois in Carrick-on-Shannon at 5 p.m. on Saturday in their qualifier.