Allstar Conor McManus hails team spirit as Monaghan go west
CONOR McManus has started just once for Monaghan this year, but despite his lack of game-time the Farneymen will hit the road to Galway at the weekend after three wins on-the-trot in Division One.
Clontibret clubman McManus – an Allstar in 2013 and 2015 - missed the League opener against Mayo and was a substitute in the wins over Kildare (he scored 0-1) and Tyrone (0-3). His only start came against Kerry at Castleblayney when he bagged 1-3.
“I’m training away and playing when I’m told to play,” said McManus.
“You do what you’re asked and if Malachy (O’Rourke) asks me to start, I’ll start and if he asks me to come in I’ll do that. I’m training away and doing as much as I can and so are the rest of the lads – it’s all about getting the head down and trying to perform and hopefully getting picked on the back of that.
“I’m no different to anybody else. That’s the environment we’re trying to create and instil in the boys from 18 right up to 33 or 34 and once you have that there’s no better man than Malachy to lead it.”
He added: “Malachy has switched things up.
“He’s playing boys who are in form and who are playing well and training well. That’s just the way it has been, he said that at the start of the year and he has stuck to it and it’s good to see because it keeps everyone on the edge of their seats.”
Despite their excellent form, travelling to in-form Galway on Sunday is another demanding assignment for Monaghan. The Tribesmen are level with Dublin at the top of the table on eight points and will have their sights set on the League final.
“It’s a big ask to go down to one of the form teams,” said McManus.
“They have hit the ground running this year but they were Connacht champions in 2016 so they’re not a surprise package by any stretch. People are talking about them as being a surprise but that’s not the case because they have a lot of talent and a lot of ability in their squad.
“We’ve played them a number of times over the years and we’re well aware of what we’ll encounter on Sunday. It’s another challenge for us and another challenge for the squad – I’m sure Malachy will make changes again and we’ll go down there and try and get a win.”
St Mary’s University College manager Paddy Tally - a former coach with Tyrone and Down – has been drafted into the Galway set up this year. McManus says the Galbally native has some excellent tools to work with in Kevin Walsh’s squad.
“Galway were on the right path anyway and then they brought in somebody with Paddy’s experience which will only add to what they already had going down there,” he said.
“They’ve beaten Mayo two years in-a-row and you don’t do that without foundations. I’m sure Paddy will go in with his own ideas and I think you can see his stamp on things already but he had a fair platform to work with.”
While his county’s form is certainly encouraging, McManus points out that Monaghan’s 2017 campaign included just two losses (against Ulster champions Tyrone and All-Ireland champions Dublin) but it didn’t translate to Championship success.
“We had a decent League last year and we could have made a League final but come the summer we fell flat on our face,” he said.
“There’s no point in us patting ourselves on the back and saying ‘we’re this or we’re that’ – it’s just a matter of keeping our heads down and working hard.
“If there was a formula for fixing that, it would have been used long ago. I suppose we just have to redouble our efforts and that’s not saying we didn’t work hard last year.
“We have a panel of players who are training hard and there’s a lot of competition for jerseys and the longer we can keep that going the better.”