Monaghan captain Kieran Duffy excited by Championship buzz ahead of Cavan clash

The Farney men are looking to bury the memory of a poor League campaign

Kieran Duffy says Monaghan are looking forward to getting their Championship campaign underway Picture: Seamus Loughran
Kieran Duffy says Monaghan are looking forward to getting their Championship campaign underway Picture: Seamus Loughran

AFTER beating Dublin on the opening day of the National League, six successive defeats saw Monaghan relegated from Division One after a prolonged stay of ten seasons, but captain Kieran Duffy says they’re fully focused on championship now.

The Farney County welcome near neighbours Cavan to Clones on Sunday afternoon to kickstart the Ulster Championship and while Monaghan’s form to date has been poor, Duffy is hoping his side can turn things around.

Momentum can be a difficult thing to create when you simply don’t have it but Duffy, now entering his 14th season as an inter-county footballer, is only concentrating on what his side can do in the here and now.

“First and foremost, we would have liked to have stayed up in Division One,” said the Latton defender. “Disappointing, don’t get me wrong but I suppose we haven’t had much time to really look at it.

“We have the championship now and the championship will take its own kind of buzz to it. We were back to training last week and we’re looking forward to the championship.

“If you don’t get a buzz around championship, it’s about getting morale and it’s a whole new competition. So, we’re looking forward and getting back on track and getting going again.”

Monaghan’s goal concessions throughout the league will surely be a concern for Vinny Corey ahead of the championship as their net was rattled 14 times across the seven games, an average of two goals per game.

The situation with Rory Beggan has thrown goalkeeper Darren McDonnell in at the deep end while numerous injuries to key personnel hasn’t helped their case but Monaghan are working hard to rectify those shortcomings.

“It was a case that we knew we had to work on every element of the game, attacking, defending,” continued the Monaghan skipper. “It was a case of game by game. We wanted to concede less, we didn’t want to concede them goals.

“To be fair, a couple of teams had really good quality and there was a couple of real good goals they got on us. Listen, we’ll have to look at that and improve on it looking forward.”

Cavan aren’t in the best of form themselves after a league campaign that saw them finish third in Division Two. While that’s better than many would have expected, Raymond Galligan’s men haven’t won a competitive fixture since February 25.

That was a round four clash against Louth and since then they’ve drawn with Meath and suffered back-to-back defeats to Armagh and Fermanagh. Despite both teams run of form in recent weeks, Duffy is expecting a huge challenge from the Breffni men.

“I’ve been watching them this year. They were very unlucky not to come up this year,” added Duffy. “Like any year we’ve played them it’s been one or two points either way, I can see it being no other way.

“We know that they have a lot of quality players and a new manager in now as well. They will be confident coming up the road and no doubt there will not be too much in it.”

14 years is a long time to commit to something and Duffy, since making his championship debut against Kildare in the 2010 qualifiers, has witnessed a lot of change in the blue and white jersey and in the game in general.

Duffy won two Ulster Championship medals under Malachy O’Rourke’s tutelage in 2013 and 2015 but also lost deciders in 2014 and 2021. While the primary qualities of defending are still very much part of his game, he’s had to expand his attributes as the years have gone on.

You only have to point to the recent goal scoring exploits of Conor McCluskey (Derry), Peter McGrane (Armagh) and Ceilum Doherty (Down) to understand how the role of a man-marking defender has altered dramatically.

Duffy got on the scoresheet against Roscommon in the league and could have hit the net against Tyrone but for a fine Niall Morgan save. While some purists mightn’t enjoy the sight of a roaming corner-back, Duffy thinks it’s good for the state of the game.

“I suppose every facet of the game from goalkeeping right through to midfield and the forwards, in one way, every player has to be a danger in the sense that they can take their scores, they can take a goal or whatnot,” explained the 33-year-old.

“I think that can only be good for the game. If there are only one or two or three men scoring that can maybe take away from the spectacle.

“Of course, it is a 15-man game now and anybody can score. People might argue, but I think it’s good for the game that everybody can contribute in certain ways.”

While Duffy may be in the twilight of his career, Monaghan have fielded a number of rookies and got the chance to blood them through in the league. They’ll still look to the older heads of Conor McManus and Darren Hughes, but Monaghan are planning for the future as well.

“I suppose any young player aspiring to play for Monaghan, you want to get in on the team as soon as possible. No better place than Division One to get in and put down a marker and a few lads have done extremely well, so that’s definitely a positive going forward.

“The Ulster championship will bring its own merits. More intensity, it’s knockout and it adds its own pressure, but we are lucky enough we have young players that are capable and want to get playing for Monaghan.”