“We’re out, that’s it, year over...” Difficult season ends but Monaghan vow to come back stronger

All Monaghan hopes Conor McManus keeps going says Micheal Bannigan

Monaghan's Micheal Bannigan goes on the attack during Sunday's Division One victory over Donegal
Micheal Bannigan scored two points in Galway but Monaghan's season came to an end

WHEN Monaghan players pull on their county jersey you’re guaranteed total commitment and pride, but that just wasn’t enough for them this year.

After relegation to Division Two and an early exit from the Ulster Championship, the Farneymen battled to the finish against Galway in Salthill on Saturday evening but they fell three points short.

That has been the story of a difficult season for them. Karl Gallagher went off to Aussie Rules, Rory Beggan spent a spell in the USA hoping to secure an American Football contract and experienced players missed important games with injury.

If there were positives from 2024, none of them were jumping out at Micheal Bannigan after the loss to Galway in Saturday’s preliminary quarter-final.

“It was a very challenging year,” he said, but he offered no excuses.

“Darren Hughes got a bad injury, Karl O’Connell, Kieran Duffy our captain, Dessie Ward was injured… Obviously those boys were a miss but Galway were missing men today too. Shane Walsh came off in the first half, Damien Comer only came on in the second half… Every team has to put up with injuries.”

Conor McManus is consoled by his mother at he leaves the field at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Picture: Sportsfile
Conor McManus is consoled by his mother at he leaves the field at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Picture: Sportsfile (Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE)

However, one thing that didn’t breakdown, although it was pushed hard, was Monaghan’s spirit and maybe that is something to take from the 2024 season.

“Throughout the League I was very proud of the boys,” said Bannigan.

“We stuck at it and nobody walked away.

“It would have been very easy during the League for boys to walk away with the way things were going but we didn’t. The boys stuck in, dug hard and we were on an upward trajectory from the Kerry game. We got our performances together and we performed well against Louth, then against Meath and better against Galway but we didn’t get over the line, we didn’t do ourselves justice in the second half.”

Bannigan scored two points as Monaghan took and early 4-2 lead and although Galway recovered to take a one-point lead at the interval, Vinny Corey’s side had the wind at their backs and looked in a promising position for the second half. But last year’s All-Ireland semi-finalists were second best after the break and after Barry McBennett hit the crossbar for the Ulstermen, Galway built a lead Monaghan couldn’t catch.

“At half-time we thought we had put ourselves in a good position to win the game,” said Bannigan.

“The bare bones of it is we didn’t attack well – the goal chance might dress it up a bit – but we didn’t attack well in the second half.

“We got in easier for our chances in the first half against the wind but we were inefficient in our attack after half-time and it cost us. We probably didn’t defend as well either, we took our foot off the gas for whatever reason and it’s tough to take. We’re out, that’s it – year over.”

When Monaghan meet again for next season will Conor McManus be with them? For 18 seasons he has been there and for many of these seasons he has carried his county’s hopes and dreams but he can’t go on forever.

As he left the pitch at Pearse Stadium, it seemed certain that ‘Mansy’ has had his day but Bannigan is holding out for a change of heart.

“You’d have to ask Conor that but I hope it’s not the end of him – all of Monaghan hopes it not,” he said.

“You saw what he did when he came on, so I hope he keeps going.”