GAA Football

'Fantastic' that Monaghan need to get at least a point in Galway - Kieran Hughes

Monaghan's Kieran Hughes is bullish about his county's chances of sealing a first All-Ireland SFC semi-final since 1988. Picture Seamus Loughran

MONAGHAN could, and probably should, already be in the All-Ireland SFC semi-finals – but Kieran Hughes insists it’s “fantastic” that they have to go to Galway and pick up at least a point on Saturday evening.

Kerry kept their hopes alive and, denied the Farneymen their ticket to the last four, with a late levelling goal from teenage sensation David Clifford in Clones, meaning that if the Kingdom beat Kildare and Monaghan lose in Salthill then the Ulster men could miss out.

Saturday’s game in Pearse Stadium would still have mattered, with the eventual table-toppers avoiding All-Ireland champions Dublin in the semi-finals, so Hughes believes it’s good his county is going there needing to avoid defeat, with Galway going through no matter what:

“If we had beaten Kerry, we could have taken the foot off the gas…And I know what has happened in previous years, we have fallen into a wee comfort zone and everyone pats your back around the county, tells you that you are brilliant and everything.

“It is nice to hear that sometimes but we have had enough bad defeats over the years so when we sit down now we see this as a must-win game for us and we will go down there with all guns blazing.”

The versatile Scotstown man was keen to strike a positive note despite the nature of the draw with Kerry, a game Monaghan led from the second minute to the 74th: “The initial feeling was disappointment but we are big enough men in this dressing room to bounce back from that disappointment. This is where we want to be and this is where we need to be at this stage of the year. We got a performance out of ourselves and we’ll drive it on to Galway.”

Indeed, he pointed out that Monaghan could have been ever worse off: “I actually said to one of the boys the whole thing could have been worse, we could have lost it at the end-up, but that is football. People paid money into a see a great game of football that was a fantastic spectacle and finished 1-17 all but we will get the heads down now and prepare to dissect Galway.”

Had Monaghan been dependent on the outcome of Kerry-Kildare, their outlook would have been very bleak, agreed Hughes: “Absolutely, that is it in a nutshell. It is in our own hands and I know that we have enough character in the dressing room to get through it.

“That is not downgrading Galway, it is going to be a massive test, they have been the in-form team this year, but I know what is in our dressing room and I have a good feeling we will be able to bounce back.”

Monaghan have had something of a break since the Kerry game, having played five matches in just over four weeks from the start of their qualifier campaign, but Hughes didn’t mind that testing schedule: “I think it is a positive that we were on the go for five weeks in a row because we have just taken every game as it comes.

“Come every Monday we just tune into the next opposition and we will do the exact same for Galway. Look, it is a fantastic position to be in. Regardless of what way the result went against Kerry we were going to go into the Galway game looking to win it so nothing much has changed. It is fantastic going in knowing you need a win.”

The breathing space may benefit Hughes himself, who admits he shouldn’t have played in the Ulster SFC semi-final defeat to Fermanagh due to hamstring and hip issues:

“I should have probably pulled myself up. The mind wants the body to do something it shouldn’t, but I should have pulled myself. But there you go, you live and learn, so you do.

“I am doing everything in my power to get sorted. It is a lonely world when you are out there and you are injured. You are on your own trying to get your show back on the road. I was happy to get on the field against Kerry and I felt fresh.

“Hopefully I will give myself every chance but if it means coming off the bench again, then so be it, I am prepared to do that for the team and if it means starting I will be ready to go again. This is a massive time for Monaghan football.”

A point or two for the visitors to Salthill on Saturday evening may prove a point or two for Monaghan, Hughes concludes: “There are probably a lot of pundits out there who do not respect us for our ability to play football. I think if there is one thing we have shown this year it is how we can really attack teams and defend at the same time. That is something we really worked on at the start of the year, trying to break from defence into attack and you will be found wanting if you can’t do that against the bigger teams.

“And that’s the one thing we said we wanted to do, be playing at this stage of the year, we wanted to test ourselves against the likes of Kerrys, Galway, Tyrone, and Mayo. We’ll come back hungrier”.

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