GAA Football

Young Monaghan aces will recover in time for Down duel says boss Mark Counihan

Monaghan minor boss Mark Counihan insists he has no concerns about the fitness of his young charges as they prepare to face Down in the Ulster MFC preliminary round tomorrow. Picture by Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

WITH just a week to restore the strength of mind and body following the exertions of a League final that went to extra-time, Monaghan’s powers of recovery will be put to the test in tomorrow’s Ulster MFC clash with Down.

A busy and demanding schedule may have placed undue demands on the Farney lads, but manager Mark Counihan is confident his players will be ready to meet the challenge.They begin the defence of their provincial title in a preliminary round tie at Clones (6pm).

“When you have 16 and 17-year-old boys, they’re as fit as fiddles and just mad to play football, I don’t think it’s going to be a major issue,” said Counihan.

“We didn’t have any injuries or anything like that from the game, so we’re happy enough. We were goad to get a good competitive game so close to the championship and it should bring us on again.

"Monaghan came out on top when the sides met in the Ulster League, but neither county was willing to show a full hand on that occasion, and the Mourne side remains something of an unknown quantity.

“It will be completely different. They had a lot of boys away on schools duty, so they were missing a lot of key players. We know they have good quality additions to come back into it, and it will be a completely different game.

“We used the League campaign just to find out about ourselves and find out what kind of a panel that we had. We’re very happy in that respect, everyone got game time, we’re learning all the time.

“But Championship is going to be completely different, there’s a lot of shadow boxing going on, as ourselves and Down and Antrim are all on the one side of the draw, and we were together in the League as well. So you couldn’t really read a lot into the League, but it should make for a competitive Championship."

While Truagh Gaels clubman Counihan, like most of his players, is new to the set-up, they were all in Croke Park on a memorable day last August when the county’s Minor and Senior teams appeared in All-Ireland semi-finals.

Both came out on the losing side, but the occasion sparked a resolve among the current squad to get back to the theatre of dreams on Jones’ Road.

“Last year was phenomenal for Monaghan to have two teams in an All-Ireland semi-final. It gave the whole place a lift.

“A lot of these boys would have been sitting in the stands watching, and itching for a chance to get to represent Monaghan, so it all feeds into a culture of Monaghan expecting to go places and to do well.

“So these boys have the opportunity now. we have very difficult opposition starting on Saturday, so the full focus is just on this game, and to try and overcome Down.”

And they have three survivors from the 2018 team –Jason Irwin, Karl Gallagher and Shane Hanratty –adding vital experience to this season’s effort, with full forward Irwin leading the side as captain.

“We have a few back from last year’s team, which is good, and they’ve been there and they know what it’s all about,” said Counihan.

“But the nature of Minors is that there’s a huge changeover of players and obviously there’s a changeover of management too.

“So it’s all kinda brand new, you’re starting from afresh, everybody is starting from the bottom of the mountain again.

“Jason was a key part of last year’s team as well, he brings a lot of experience with him from last year."

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