Monaghan have golden Nicky Rackard Cup opportunity

Monaghan's Stephen Lambe hit 1-4 against Fermanagh  
Padraig Kelly

Nicky Rackard Cup round 2A: Monaghan v Fingal
(Saturday, Castleblayney, 2pm)

MONAGHAN’S pursuit of a first-ever Nicky Rackard Cup continues in Castleblayney on Saturday when they host a dangerous Fingal side.

The Farney men have reached the semi-finals of the competition on three occasions previously, but that has been as far as they have ventured, with Louth ending their hopes in 2008 and ’11 and Donegal taking them apart three years ago.

There’s no reason why Trevor Hilliard’s side can’t make it through to a fourth semi-final though, as they will enter the match brimming with confidence. That’s mainly down to their scoring performance in the first round. The 5-12 they hit against Fermanagh is their joint highest tally since the competition’s inception in 2005, with the county hitting that exact score against Sligo in 2013.

Brian McGuigan, who made his Championship debut in the county’s first ever Nicky Rackard match (v Warwickshire), was in superb form against the Erne county as he helped himself to a 3-1 tally. With Fermanagh’s Daniel Teague dismissed after just 14 minutes, the home side were stretched and Monaghan took advantage. Mark Treanor, operating at full-forward rather than his usual half-forward berth, grabbed 1-1, while target man Stephen Lambe managed 1-4, 1-1 of that total coming from play.

The goal threat was not a one-off either. They have managed to find the net in five of their seven competitive matches this year. On every one of those five occasions, they have scored more than one goal.

If that’s not enough, Fingal’s defensive record when it comes to goals is pretty brutal too, with 14 conceded in just six games. It’s at the other end of the field that they are more dangerous though and, across the six National League divisions, only Longford had a better goal scoring average.

They had eight scorers in their 3-20 to 3-15 win against Longford last week, with JM Sheridan leading the scoring charts with 0-11. He was also their top scorer (0-8) when they met Monaghan met earlier this year in the league. Hilliard’s side won that match courtesy of hitting three goals and it would appear that the Dublin side have failed to learn their lessons.

Like against Fermanagh, McGuigan, Treanor and Lambe were the Farney goalscorers that day and they must be licking their lips at the thought of getting another opportunity to do damage.

This is the third Nicky Rackard meeting between the sides and Fingal’s inability to shore up their defence ensures Monaghan should move into a 2-1 lead.


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