Malachy O'Rourke vows Monaghan will attack Super 8s
MALACHY O’Rourke says that he will stick by the philosophy his Monaghan side has tried to carry all year and send them out to attack in the Super 8s.
After a disappointingly limp quarter-final exit at the hands of Dublin last year, the Farneymen have adopted a more adventurous approach in almost all their games this season.
It has resulted in their highest scoring average in both league and championship since they joined the top flight of the National League in 2015.
They averaged 0-16 in winning Ulster that year, and hit 1-11 on the nose across their seven league games. They increased their league score this year to almost 1-13 per game, and their championship average has risen to 1-19 – up almost two points from last year, when they hit 3-23 against Wexford and 1-24 against Down.
Their performance against Fermanagh in the Ulster semi-final drew criticism when they kicked only 0-10 and failed to disrupt the Erne side’s kickouts by pushing high enough up the pitch. They also carried little attacking threat that day.
But in the rest of their games, including all three qualifiers, they have played much of the game with a three-man full-forward line, and a more attack-minded half-forward division than in previous seasons.
Their use of the kick pass has been far more prominent throughout this season, and O’Rourke says that’s how they’ll aim to take on Kildare this weekend.
“We’ve tried to do that all year, and we did that against Tyrone as well.
“The way Fermanagh play, it’s easy to sit on the sideline and say we dropped back, but we didn’t really.
“We tried to push up on all the kickouts that day as well, but it’s sometimes hard to get them and when Fermanagh played that many men back behind the ball, if you push everyone up you leave yourself completely exposed at the back.
“Different days you have to adapt accordingly. We didn’t get it right that day. We’re trying all the time to see can we get the right balance, we haven’t got it right yet but we’re still striving to.”
They may have shown signs of recovery since the Eoin Donnelly uppercut in Omagh a month ago, but O’Rourke feels Kildare are the side with real momentum coming into their crucial Super 8s clash.
Kerry and Galway will meet in the second game at Croke Park on Sunday as the two favourites to progress from the group and into the last four.
The losers from the curtain raiser will be faced with an uphill task to achieve a semi-final spot, but there is a feeling that both Monaghan and Kildare stand a credible chance of upsetting the odds.
With the exception of a sloppy second half against Laois at the weekend, the Farneymen have looked lively through the qualifiers, but O’Rourke admits that any feelgood they’ve built up pales in comparison to that of Cian O’Neill’s men.
“Momentum is a big thing. We’ve got a wee bit of momentum but it’s against teams we’ve been expected to beat, so it’s a different kind of momentum.
“The momentum Kildare have is maybe that wee bit stronger because they played Mayo, which everyone knew was going to be a really tough challenge, and they were very impressive there
“They were very impressive again against a Fermanagh side that we know are very tricky to play against.
“Our defensive work and everything will have to be a lot better. Kildare showed a lot of pace and power, and Croke Park will suit them.
“We’ve a lot of work to do to be competitive, but it’s good to be there and that’s what we’ll spend this week doing. There’s no excuses, we’re where we want to be.”
Despite making his return from a hamstring injury towards the end of the win over Laois, it’s unlikely that Kieran Hughes will be fit for anything more than an appearance off the bench again this weekend.