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GAA Football

Good League form will count for nothing against Tyrone says Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke

Malachy O'Rourke has kept Monaghan in the top flight for the last four years, finishing third this season

MALACHY O’Rourke has dismissed Monaghan’s strong showing in Division One this year, insisting that it will count for nothing ahead of their Ulster Championship showdown with Tyrone on May 20.

The Farney County produced arguably their best showing in the top flight since joining the country’s elite in 2015.

They edged out the Red Hands by a point back in February in a dress rehearsal of their provincial clash next month and also claimed victories over Dublin and Kerry to finish third.

Now in his sixth year with Monaghan, O’Rourke’s men are aiming to win their third Anglo-Celt in the Fermanagh man’s time in charge.

But they face the ultimate test against the reigning Ulster champions.

“I don’t think our League match with Tyrone will have any relevance to the Championship game,” O’Rourke said.

“The teams will be different, the weather conditions will be different, teams will be at different levels of physical preparation. And there is no doubt over the last couple of years Tyrone play their best football in the summer time.

“I remember last year they went up to Donegal in the League and Donegal beat them fairly convincingly in winter time.

“When it came to the summer it was a completely different affair. Tyrone are a top-of-the-ground team, they have a lot of pace and athleticism in their team.

“We’d be very foolish that a game in the middle of winter, a wet, cold night [in Castleblayney] would follow anything like the same pattern as in May. Tyrone will be completely different and far better team and we have to improve as well and hopefully be competitive against them.”

Despite losing to Longford in the 2016 All-Ireland Qualifiers and suffering an Ulster semi-final loss to Down last summer, O’Rourke has been a huge success with Monaghan.

Asked did he feel it was a golden era for Monaghan football, he said: “It’s not something that would be mentioned much. We go on about our business.

“There is no doubt with the resources that a county like Monaghan have it has been a great achievement for the players to stay in Division One over the last few years.

“But we’re not too worried about getting credit. If people give you credit for it, that’s great. The thing about it is the League pales into insignificance when it’s over and the Championship begins. We know that. We stay in Division One and we don’t have a good Championship all that will be forgotten about.

“We know we’ll be judged later in the year.”

With club football in full swing, the Monaghan players will still train with the county during the week.

The GAA has kept this month free of inter-county activity in a bid to create more calendar space for club football.

O’Rourke said: “The boys are playing away with their clubs and we won’t be interfering with that. In saying that, they’ll be still training with us during the week because it’s unrealistic for teams playing their first Championship match in May; it wouldn’t be logical for fellas not to be training with the county.

“We’ll obviously take into consideration important club games at the end of the week.”

In a study carried out by The Irish News on player drop-out rates between 2008 and 2017, it found Monaghan used a mere 64 players, second only to Kerry (57).

At the other end of the scale Leitrim used 99 and Derry 98.

“I don’t honestly know why that is,” said O’Rourke of Monaghan’s impressive player stats.

“I suppose since we’ve been there the boys have been a very committed bunch and they’ve enjoyed the training, enjoyed the challenge of it.

“I’d put it down to Ryan Porter’s training. In fairness, it’s never a slogging session; it’s always good quality training. We don’t flog the boys and the commitment we’re asking wouldn’t be extreme.

“There wouldn’t have been many players that have pulled out of the panel in recent years.”

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