Monaghan set to continue the winning trend against Laois
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship round four: Monaghan v Laois (tomorrow, Pairc Tailteann, 2pm)
THE only thing worse than the hangover from a Leinster final defeat is when an Ulster side comes rocking up the next day looking for another session.
For the past eight years, the side that has lost out in the Delaney Cup decider has been unable to respond in round four of the Qualifiers.
On four of the last five occasions, Ulster sides have been responsible for the driving home the horrors with Armagh (twice), Tyrone and Fermanagh enjoying progression to the quarter-finals at the expense of the losing Leinster finalist.
Monaghan will attempt to join that clique on Sunday afternoon as they meet a Laois side that started well but were ultimately torn asunder by Dublin in their provincial decider at Croke Park two weeks ago.
If the O'Moore county want even more reason to be pessimistic then they should consider that when the quarter-finals are in sight for a Malachy O'Rourke managed Monaghan, they simply don't miss.
The Farney men have reached the last eight in four of the five seasons that O'Rourke has been in charge, the round two Qualifier loss to Longford in 2016 proving to be the sole blot on the copybook.
Ulster title wins in 2013 and '15 and round four Qualifier wins over Kildare and Down in 2014 and '17 have ensured their presence in the All-Ireland series.
Owing to the introduction of the Super 8s, the gap between round four and the quarter-finals has never felt as pronounced, and the new pot of gold at the end of the rainbow may act as the motivation Laois need – but it's still Monaghan's game to lose at Pairc Tailteann.
Never have they had an easier path – on paper at least - to the last eight. By the close of play tomorrow, 60 percent of their Championship matches will have been against Division Four opponents, another 20 percent against Division Three with Division One Tyrone completing the set.
However, it's those figures that provide O'Rourke with the ammunition to strike back against those saying that it's simply a case of turning up. They beat the Division One side but lost to the Division Three team, nothing is guaranteed in football.
Well almost nothing. Division Four sides Waterford and Leitrim could have 100 goes at Monaghan and they still wouldn't win, and they offered little resistance as the Ulster side posted a combined 6-40 to waltz past them.
Laois are different. Hangover or not, they are a genuine step in quality despite plying their trade with Leitrim and Waterford earlier in the season.
Neither side could lay a glove on them in the League, nor could the other four counties they played (the Antrim match was postponed) while they posted Leinster Championship wins over Wexford, Westmeath and Carlow.
Heading into the Dublin match, their record under John Sugrue read played 10, won 10.
That deserves respect even if Dublin defeated them 1-25 to 0-10 to bring their winning run to a shuddering halt.
Monaghan are well capable of inflicting a second defeat on them as they continue to rebound from their shock Ulster semi-final defeat to Fermanagh.
While commentating on the Leitrim match for BBC last weekend, former Farney star Paul Finlay remarked that people within the county thought that the attack wasn't just hitting the heights that it should be.
That appears harsh on reflection. Their radar was off against the Erne county but they routed Waterford and picked off 10 points in the first half against Leitrim despite the home side enjoying a lot of possession in the opening 25 minutes.
The Laois defence, especially without the injured Stephen Attride, may be well manned but it's not top level and it could be another chance for the Farney front line to shine.
CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON SO FAR
Quarter-final: Tyrone 1-16 Monaghan 1-18
Semi-final: Fermanagh 1-8 Monaghan 0-10
ALL-IRELAND SFC QUALIFYING
Round two: Monaghan 5-21 Waterford 0-9
Round three: Leitrim 0-9 Monaghan 1-19
First round: Laois 2-21 Wexford 1-18 (aet) (Leinster 1st round)
Quarter-final: Laois 4-13 Westmeath 1-12 (Leinster quarter-final)
Semi-final: Laois 0-12 Carlow 0-8 (Leinster semi-final)
Final: Dublin 1-25 Laois 0-10 (Leinster final)
The total number of scores Laois recorded in four games en route to the Leinster SFC final where they lost out to Dublin by 1-25 to 0-10.