'We haven't gone away' declares Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan
RORY BEGGAN insists Monaghan haven’t gone away and will be back “bigger and stronger” in 2017.
Last season, the Farney men exited the Ulster Championship at the semi-final stages and fell to Longford in round two of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.
Doubt was cast over Malachy O’Rourke’s position but the two-time Ulster winning manager confirmed several weeks after the Longford defeat that he would be staying on.
Despite the high-profile retirements of Dick Clerkin and Paul Finlay, Beggan feels Monaghan can still challenge for all the major honours next season.
“We’re not going away,” said the 24-year-old goalkeeper.
“We feel we can get a lot better. People are probably saying Monaghan has had their purple patch. Are we going to go away? No chance. We know we’re going to come back next year bigger and stronger and we’re just going to have to prove that. We want to get back where we should be.
“From the McKenna Cup, we have to start building again. We had a successful U21 team from last season who got to an All-Ireland semi-final and were unlucky to lose to Cork. Some of those players can come in and freshen things up. We’ve had our retirements, but we have very good players to replace them.”
O’Rourke has named a host of the Ulster-winning U21 panel including Aaron Lynch, Mikey Murnaghan, James Mealiff, Dessie Ward and Conor Forde.
Ward of Ballybay has played McKenna Cup before and will be given another chance to make the breakthrough at senior level. James Wilson, who won a Colleges’ Allstar, cut a dash in Monaghan’s junior ranks with Toome this year and gets his chance to shine with the seniors next month.
Minor captain Michael Brannigan, Emyvale’s David McAllister and Latton’s Stephen McCabe are others O’Rourke will run the rule over. While the new recruits - 10 debutants in all in Monaghan’s Dr McKenna Cup panel - will get their chance to impress, Beggan believes 2017 could be a big year for other members of the squad.
“Conor McCarthy, Ryan McAnespie and Shane Carey added a lot to the panel last year. They’re young and they’re fresh and they showed that throughout the league. Conor McCarthy scored five or six points against Longford that day, so hopefully a few more can come in and give Malachy a headache next year.”
McCarthy is currently injured and hasn’t been name in the McKenna Cup squad. Vinny Corey hasn’t been named either but could come into the reckoning in the latter stages of the competition. Stephen Gollogly’s inter-county future remains unclear, though, as he ponders whether to go again with the county team.
Reflecting on a disappointing year, Beggan added: “Losing to Longford was probably our lowest point under Malachy.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t perform and that’s our own fault. Longford proved that they are a good team but we didn’t perform in any sector around the pitch.
“Longford got an early goal but we finally got it back and we had a good spell and we went ahead at half-time. We tried to relax ourselves at half-time but in the second half you felt every time the ball left a Longford foot it was going over the bar.
"James Kavanagh hit a sideline that day and we just couldn’t get ahead and time ran out, and we were out of the Championship. It was two weeks before the Ulster final whereas the last three years we were in the Ulster final.
"Sitting watching the Ulster final was definitely weird."