Newbridge for Monaghan to cross in Allianz top flight tightrope act
Allianz Football League Division One: Kildare v Monaghan (Newbridge, 2pm tomorrow)
STAYING up in Division One can be like walking a tightrope for certain counties.
You have to keep your eyes on a distant destination, but if you don’t get the balance right then you could tumble downwards.
The PA announcer at Clones last Sunday presumably had his mind on the Ulster Championship, declaring that the opposition was “Tyrone” before quickly correcting that to “Mayo”.
At the very least he was looking forward to the visit from the Red Hands in round four, although that game is due to take place in Castleblayney.
Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke always has that tricky task of thinking about the challenges to come while dealing with the matters at hand too.
Defeats against last year’s All-Ireland Finalists can’t be construed as shocking starts - but a second loss for either of these two counties would represent a very bad beginning.
Monaghan, after being reduced to 13 men by two late red cards, lost out to an even later winner against Mayo.
Kildare were beaten more convincingly by Dublin, which was not at all surprising, and the Lilywhites now have this as the first of four home matches to improve matters.
For Monaghan, this is arguably their most winnable away match, with their other trips being to Galway and Dublin.
Yet O’Rourke will not take any unnecessary risks with players who aren’t match-fit, not even their star forward Conor McManus:
“They are coming back and hopefully we’ll see them in the next couple of weeks. They trained earlier on [before the Mayo match] and it’s not as if they are sitting idle.
“They are doing the work and at this time of year it’d not be fair to throw them into that sort of cauldron if they are not 100 per cent.
“We want to make sure they are right to go in, and hopefully that will be in the next couple of weeks.”
Monaghan are in their fourth consecutive season in the top flight and are determined to extend that to five, insists O’Rourke:
“The league is very important to us, we’ve always said that and even though we are not playing fellas who are injured we want to make sure we are not over-loading players.
“At the same time we feel that we have a stronger panel than we had and we’ll try and give boys games. But not at the expense of the league, as if it doesn’t matter - it does matter and we’ll try and win every game. That showed [against Mayo].”
Even without the terrific McManus there definitely seemed to be greater depth to their attacking options against Mayo, with the inside-forward trio of Conor McCarthy, Jack McCarron, and newcomer David Garland, aided by a greater distance on the deliveries to them.
Kildare’s attack will be without Neil Flynn, who tore a hamstring early on against the Dubs, while midfielder Kevin Feely is a doubt due to a calf problem, and forward Paddy Brophy (back) may still not be fit enough to start.
Monaghan may welcome any weakening of their opponents’ attack, given that Ryan Wylie will be suspended after his straight red card against Mayo.
However, home boss Cian O’Neill could call on the likes of Niall Kelly, Ben McCormack, or David Slattery as Kildare seek to continue a strong recent record in St Conleth’s Park.
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)