Queen's could face delayed Monaghan backlash in Dr McKenna clash
Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup section C: Monaghan v Queen's (Wednesday, Castleblayney, 8pm)
THE level of disappointment at a pre-season defeat can usually be gauged by the strength of a team’s line-up for their next game.
By that barometer, Monaghan didn’t take their five-point reverse to Fermanagh overly well. The side that they had named to start before the frost got the better of their meeting with Donegal on Sunday had seen Ryan Wylie, Fintan Kelly, Darren Hughes, Karl O’Connell and Conor McCarthy all promoted to the XV.
They never got the chance to lash back, of course, with one corner of the St Tiernach’s Park pitch finally deemed unplayable at 2.07pm, at which stage most, if not all, the supporters had settled into their seats.
Malachy O’Rourke’s squad took off and headed for home while Declan Bonner put his players through a training session on the three-quarters of the surface that had been deemed acceptable.
Initially the reports from the Farney county were that they were happy to take a back seat in January this year. They hadn’t exactly gone full tilt at the McKenna Cup in past years but always did enough to make sure they met the February tarmac at a good pace.
That’s enabled them to put their best foot forward in the League and they came within two minutes of reaching the final last year, but the fires in the good weather have died sooner than they might have, or rather more cruelly than they might have.
A later start would presumably have a knock-on effect and with the shortened National League calendar, there is a job for each and every management team to find the new optimum windows for peaking.
You can forgive Monaghan is theirs is not January 10, and it may well be that they’re happy enough to plough along without the extra game or two that this might offer.
With a likely weakened Mayo, newly-promoted Kildare and traditionally slow-starting Kerry in their opening three games, they may take a calculated risk on their Division One status in a bid to last the summer a bit better.
All of that opens the door for a Queen’s side that should have won in Brewster Park on Sunday, and would have done had it not been for a late penalty that manager Aidan O’Rourke bitterly disputed.
Their performance in Enniskillen was every bit as much a backlash as Monaghan might have been expecting to produce at the weekend. The absence of that game means the students will likely have to steel themselves that bit tighter.
Emmett Bradley’s scoring form from midfield and the frees from Tiernan Rushe are keeping them ticking over, but their scoring rate will need to show an improvement if they are to trouble a relatively attacking-looking Farney side.
In Derry’s Niall Keenan (who scored Queen’s early goal against Fermanagh), Down’s former Colleges Allstar full-back Patrick Murdock, and Crossmaglen and Armagh starlet Aidan Rushe, O’Rourke does have a good full-back line at his disposal.
Shea Heffron and Emmett Bradley have a sprinkling of inter-county experience at midfield as well, but there is an element of trying to manufacture the most they can out of their forward line.
They are unlikely to conjure up enough to win the game but, with a Sigerson opener against IT Tralee approaching fast on the horizon, they would settle for running Monaghan anywhere near as close as they ran Fermanagh.