Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke wary ahead of Kerry visit to Clones
MONAGHAN manager Malachy O’Rourke insists they'll not be taking any great confidence from the fact that they've won three of their last four meetings against Kerry ahead of the Kingdom's visit to Clones this Sunday.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice's side lost in Inniskeen in round three of Division One this year and Monagan also won in Killarney last year and Tralee in 2015 in the League top flight.
However, O'Rourke, speaking before Kerry's loss on Sunday to Galway in Croke Park, said: “No, I wouldn’t be too worried about that because Kerry are a completely different team in the Championship than they are in the League, and that’s been proven year after year. We wouldn’t be putting that much stock on that.
"Having said that, the fact that we have played them before and we’ve measured up against them, the boys will take a wee bit of confidence from that. But we know it’s going to be a completely different Kerry team, in the middle of the summer, hopefully the weather will be warm again and the pitch conditions will be good. We know we’re going to have to be playing really, really well to be competitive against them."
Kerry won well on their last visit to Clones, by 1-17 to 1-9 two years ago in round six of Division One, but this will only be their second visit to Ulster in the senior Championship, having lost the 1933 All-Ireland semi-final to Cavan in Breffni Park.
They have also found it tough going against Monaghan in the Championship in recent times, only edging through by a goal in a third round qualifier 10 years ago and even more fortunate to scrape a one-point victory in the All-Ireland quarter-final the year before that.
Yet O'Rourke is far too canny to start spouting about 'no fear' of Kerry, commenting: “Look it, I’m not going start talking about that – given Kerry’s record in Championship football, it’s not a case of going in and starting shouting about it or saying what you will do or won’t do.
"All we’ll be concentrating on is getting a really, really solid team performance. No doubt we’ll have to play the best football we’ve played all year, so that’s a big challenge and we’ll try to address that during the week..."
Having beaten Kildare in their opener on Sunday, Momaghan are in a good position, O'Rourke accepts, but it's only a good start, nothing more:
“It’s great for us to have the two points in the bag and now we can go and test ourselves again...
“That’s why we wanted to be in the Super Eights, because we know we will be playing quality teams every week, we know we have to be playing really well to be competitive, so we’re really looking forward to Kerry next week and see how we fare against them."
The likelihood is that Monaghan are one more win away from their first All-Ireland SFC semi-final for 30 years, and that will certainly be the case if Galway win in Newbridge next weekend, although Monaghan will only look at themselves, the Fermanagh native states:
“You would think that if a team has four points it would give them a good chance [of reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals], I don’t really know. The way we look at it is the same as the National League, we just take each game on its own merits, we don’t look further.
"We just concentrated on the Kildare game, now we’ll concentrate on next Sunday’s game, and when that’s over we’ll draw a line under it and see where we are – that’s the way we’re approaching it."
Monaghan captain Colin Walshe missed the Kildare match through injury but O'Rourke was able to introduce Kieran Hughes on the hour and he could get more game-time against Kerry:
"Kieran has been in bother with his hamstring since before the Fermanagh match. He played that game and wasn’t able to train for three or four weeks. He is only coming back to training last week and that was his first full contact, so it is just trying to get him up to speed. His fitness wouldn’t be at the level some of the boys are at."
Otherwise, Monaghan appear to have no problems apart from bumps and bruises, having largely strolled through the qualifiers against three Division Four teams. “The last three weekends, even though they were comfortable to a degree, we were able to take off players, the conditions made it more difficult. That there [against Kildare] was a really tough Championship game so there will be sore bodies," said O'Rourke.
"It’s just a matter of recovering as best we can, giving the boys a bit of down-time so that mentally and physically they recover well. Then set out our stall out for next weekend – it’s a great place to be".