GAA Football

There's something very special about Conor McManus

Monaghan star Conor McManus salutes supporters after several late scores against Tyrone during the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Healy Park, Omagh. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Cahair O'Kane

THAT score from the sideline was something very special indeed, and yet there was something very normal about Conor McManus producing the goods when Monaghan required it most.

He hit four of the game’s final six points against Tyrone, playing a massive part in turning a game that teetered on the brink after 65 minutes into one where Monaghan could even afford to concede a late goal.

The Clontibret man has long been recognised as one of the best forwards in the game, even if two Allstars from their Ulster winning years of 2013 and 2015 seems a rather measly return.

But where he perhaps stands out above any of the rest is in the fact that he has been (to steal a phrase from American parlance) the ultimate clutch player over the period of time that they have been punching with the best in Ulster and Ireland.

It has been particularly noticeable in the Ulster Championship in recent years. The tactical trend of teams lining out very defensively in the opening half of any game hasn’t been enough to stifle him, with a bigger percentage of his overall scores coming in the first half of games (53 per cent).

But when you break their championship games since 2012 down into 10-minute segments, Conor McManus has taken more scores in the final 10 minutes than in any other portion of the game.

Almost 21 per cent of the 5-145 he has scored in that time have been kicked after the 60th minute. That is comfortably more than the 16 per cent he kicks in the 10 minutes either side of half time, and more than double the amount of scores he has registered in the opening 10 minutes of games.

And better still, the percentage of scores that he’s kicked in open play is higher in the final 10 minutes than in any other segment of play.

57 per cent of the 1-30 he has scored in the last throes of 29 consecutive championship games since 2012 have come in open play, compared to the high of 80 per cent in the opening 10 minutes of games.

Other forwards can lay claim to having scored more and other forwards can lay claim to having gone deeper into the All-Ireland series.

But when you take some of the fantastic individual displays that he’s put on during an unprecedented spell for Monaghan football in Division One, the constricted nature of Ulster football and even that of his own team when they were at their most effective, it’s hard to argue there has been a better forward in Ireland the last six years.

A harder argument still when you consider that he’s been managing a restrictive hip injury that will more than likely require a replacement when his playing days are over.

Not only is he one of the best forwards we’ll ever see, but he’s as big a leader as anything out there.

Sunday was quite literally vintage Conor McManus.

CONOR McMANUS IN STATS

*All stats since beginning of 2012 Championship

Scores by time period

0-10 mins 0-15 9%

11-20 mins 1-20 14%

21-30 mins 0-25 16%

31-40 mins 2-20 16%

41-50 mins 0-19 12%

51-60 mins 1-16 12%

61-70 mins 1-30 21%

Total 5-145

Percentage of scores from open play

0-10 mins 0-3 20%

11-20 mins 1-6 39%

21-30 mins 0-6 32%

31-40 mins 1-8 42%

41-50 mins 0-6 32%

51-60 mins 1-2 26%

61-70 mins 1-11 43%

Total 4-42

Percentage of scores from dead balls

0-10 mins 0-12 80%

11-20 mins 0-14 61%

21-30 mins 0-17 68%

31-40 mins 1-12 58%

41-50 mins 0-13 68%

51-60 mins 0-14 74%

61-70 mins 0-19 57%

Total 1-103

Scores per season

2012 0-12 (0-8f)

2013 0-19 (0-13f)

2014 1-27 (0-20f)

2015 1-26 (0-18f)

2016 1-24 (1-17f)

2017 2-31 (0-20f)

2018* 0-6 (0-4f)

***

Five times McManus produced the goods

1. Tyrone 1-16 Monaghan 1-18, 2018 Ulster SFC

EVEN in a relatively quiet first half, he managed to distinguish himself with two superb defensive interventions within 20 metres of his own goal, and had a big hand in the decisive goal for Vinny Corey. But it was the last quarter where he came to the fore. Tyrone had just got level when he nailed a difficult free from in front of a baying stand. He backed it up with one of the greatest Ulster Championship scores of all time, and hit four of the last six in total for his side to seal a priceless win in Omagh.

2. Cavan 0-15 Monaghan 1-15, 2017 Ulster SFC

McMANUS won every ball kicked his way the whole afternoon but it did take a while to find his range. A gritty Cavan side were proving difficult to shake and as the game entered the final quarter, it was sitting on a knife-edge. Cian Mackey had just kicked the Breffnimen into the lead when McManus came short for a ball off Owen Duffy, only to duck in behind at the perfect second. He rounded Conor Moynagh and drilled home a vicious low finish that ultimately won his side the game.

3. Monaghan 0-14 Donegal 1-11, 2016 Ulster SFC

THE sides had become almost inseparable since 2013 but when Odhrán MacNiallais netted for Donegal with 15 minutes remaining, they quickly opened a three-point gap that was ordinarily enough for the Tír Chonaill men. But, having kicked an outrageous score early in the second half, McManus was relied upon to provide salvation. He kicked three frees, including the equaliser six minutes into stoppage time, but it was the second of them from all of 50 yards that kept Monaghan alive in the game.

4. Monaghan 1-18 Armagh 0-13, 2014 Ulster SFC replay

HE finished the day with 1-7 to his name, and he had the knack of putting Armagh back in their place any time they threatened. McManus had hit two superb first half points and then slammed home a brilliant goal just before the interval. Helped pushed them seven clear by the hour mark but Jamie Clarke was menacing at the other end and Armagh made a mini-revival. But the Clontibret man was on fire, hitting three late points, the pick of them a chorus-rousing effort from a sideline ball.

5. Dublin 1-14 Monaghan 0-16, 2016 NFL

IT may not come under the championship heading but even when he’s long retired, his display that night in Croke Park will always be one of the first that comes to mind. He kicked 12 of Monaghan’s 16 points, combining a series of brilliant frees with three top-quality scores from play. Left basically on his own the whole night against two Dublin defenders, his movement, ball-winning ability and knowing where the posts are at all times lit up headquarters.

***

2012

Ulster QF: Monaghan 1-12 Antrim 1-9

Scored 0-2f

50-60 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-1f)

Ulster SF: Monaghan 1-13 Down 1-14

Scored 0-5 (3f)

0-10 (0-1)

10-20 (0-2, 1f)

20-30 (0-1f)

30-35 (0-1f)

AIQ Rd 2: Laois 2-12 Monaghan 0-12

Scored 0-5 (3f)

0-10 (0-1)

10-20 (0-1f)

20-30 (0-1)

30-35 (0-2, 1f)

2013

Ulster QF: Antrim 0-6 Monaghan 0-11

Scored 0-4 (3f)

0-10 (0-1f)

10-20 (0-1)

40-50 (0-2f)

Ulster SF: Cavan 0-12 Monaghan 1-10

Scored 0-6 (3f)

20-30 (0-2f)

30-35 (0-1)

40-50 (0-2, 1f)

60-70 (0-1)

Ulster Final: Monaghan 0-13 Donegal 0-7

Scored 0-3f

0-10 (0-1f)

20-30 (0-1f)

50-60 (0-1f)

AIQF: Monaghan 0-12 Tyrone 0-14

Scored 0-6 (4f)

0-10 (0-2f)

20-30 (0-1)

30-35 (0-1)

40-50 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-1f)

2014

Ulster QF: Tyrone 0-14 Monaghan 1-12

Scored 0-6f

10-20 (0-2f)

20-30 (0-1f)

30-35 (0-1f)

50-60 (0-2f)

Ulster SF: Monaghan 0-14 Armagh 0-14

Scored 0-2 (1f)

10-20 (0-1)

40-50 (0-1f)

Ulster SF replay: Monaghan 1-18 Armagh 0-13

Scored 1-7 (4f)

10-20 (0-1f)

20-30 (0-2, 1f)

30-35 (1-0)

50-60 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-3, 1 lb)

Ulster Final: Monaghan 1-9 Donegal 0-15

Scored 0-1

60-70 (0-1)

AIQ Rd 4: Monaghan 2-16 Kildare 2-14 (AET)

Scored 0-5 (5f)

0-10 (0-1f)

20-30 (0-1f)

30-35 (0-1f)

40-50 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-1f)

AIQF: Dublin 2-22 Monaghan 0-11

Scored 0-6 (4f)

20-30 (0-1)

35-40 (0-1f)

40-50 (0-2f)

50-60 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-1)

2015

Ulster QF: Cavan 0-15 Monaghan 0-16

Scored 0-7 (5f)

0-10 (0-1f)

10-20 (0-2, 1f)

20-30 (0-1f)

50-60 (0-2f)

60-70 (0-1)

Ulster SF: Monaghan 1-20 Fermanagh 0-13

Scored 1-6 (5f)

10-20 (0-1f)

30-35 (0-1f)

40-50 (0-1f)

50-60 (0-2f)

60-70 (1-1)

Ulster Final: Monaghan 0-11 Donegal 0-10

Scored 0-6 (3f)

0-10 (0-1f)

10-20 (0-1f)

20-30 (0-1)

30-35 (0-1)

40-50 (0-2, 1f)

AIQF: Monaghan 0-14 Tyrone 0-18

Scored 0-7 (5f)

20-30 (0-1)

30-35 (0-1f)

40-50 (0-2f)

50-60 (0-1)

60-70 (0-2f)

2016

Ulster QF: Monaghan 2-22 Down 0-9

Scored 0-8 (6f)

10-20 (0-2f)

20-30 (0-2f)

30-35 (0-1f)

35-40 (0-1)

50-60 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-1f)

Ulster SF: Monaghan 0-14 Donegal 1-11

Scored 0-8 (7f)

10-20 (0-1f)

20-30 (0-2f)

30-35 (0-1f)

40-50 (0-1)

60-70 (0-3f)

Ulster SF replay: Monaghan 2-10 Donegal 0-17

Scored 1-4 (1-0p, 0-1f)

20-30 (0-1)

30-35 (1-0pen)

35-40 (0-1)

60-70 (0-2f)

AIQ Rd 2: Monaghan 1-13 Longford 2-13

Scored 0-4 (3f)

0-10 (0-2f)

30-35 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-1f)

2017

Ulster Prelim: Monaghan 1-20 Fermanagh 1-11

Scored 1-3 (1f)

10-20 (1-0)

30-35 (0-1f)

40-50 (0-1)

50-60 (0-1)

Ulster QF: Cavan 0-15 Monaghan 1-15

Scored 1-4 (2f)

20-30 (0-2, 1f)

30-35 (0-1)

40-50 (0-1)

50-60 (1-0)

Ulster SF: Down 1-14 Monaghan 0-15

Scored 0-6 (3f)

10-20 (0-1)

30-35 (0-1)

40-50 (0-1f)

50-60 (0-2f)

60-70 (0-1)

AIQ Rd 2: Wexford 1-11 Monaghan 3-23

Scored 0-1f (black carded after 28 mins)

10-20 (0-1f)

AIQ Rd 3: Carlow 1-7 Monaghan 1-12

Scored 0-3 (2f)

0-10 (0-1f)

10-20 (0-1)

20-30 (0-1f)

AIQ Rd 4: Down 1-16 Monaghan 1-24

0-10 (0-8f)

10-20 (0-1f)

20-30 (0-3f)

35-40 (0-1f)

40-50 (0-1)

50-60 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-2, 1f)

AIQF: Dublin 1-19 Monaghan 0-12

Scored 0-4 (3f)

0-10 (0-1)

60-70 (0-3f)

2018

Ulster QF: Tyrone 1-16 Monaghan 1-18

Scored 0-6 (4f)

0-10 (0-1f)

10-20 (0-1f)

60-70 (0-4, 2f)

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