Malachy O'Rourke's Monaghan raring to go ahead of Kerry and Tyrone ties
MALACHY O’Rourke had other plans for this weekend, and they involved doing not a lot.
Recharging the batteries after the opening three rounds of the National League was the plan for his Monaghan panel ahead of next Saturday’s clash with Ulster champions Tyrone. That’s not how things were destined to turn out, though. Last weekend’s postponement due to bad weather means they now have both Kerry and the Red Hands to face within the space of seven days at Inniskeen.
“Our preparations were in place for the match and, when it was called off so late it does affect things a wee bit, but I suppose, at this time of year, you’re sort of prepared for that type of thing,” said the Farney manager of last weekend’s Division One postponement.
“You just had to accept it and get a wee bit of a training session done and prepare ourselves for this weekend. We were hoping, after last weekend, we would have two weeks to prepare for our next league game and it gives you a wee chance to get a bit of work done and stuff.
“We have to adapt to whatever happens and we got a bit of training done this week as usual. Hopefully, we’ll be ready for the weekend, it’s a big challenge, but it’s what you expect in Division One and we’ll get on with it.”
The big challenges come thick and fast at the NFL’s top table. Monaghan followed up an opening day defeat to beaten All-Ireland finalists Mayo with a hard-fought victory over Kildare and, while survival is the goal this year, O’Rourke isn’t placing particular emphasis on the next two blockbusters.
“We’re not looking at it as make or break at all,” O’Rourke added of the home games against the Kingdom and Tyrone.
“We’re just taking every game on its own merits. I think that’s the only way you can approach it in Division One.
“You know, all the games are really tough games. If you perform at your best, you can win them; if you don’t perform at your best, there’s a good chance you’ll lose them.
“We’re just trying to perform in each game and, if we do that, if we play well enough in the games, we’ll get enough points at the end of the campaign to keep us up in the division and that’s the ultimate aim.
“We’re not putting pressure on ourselves [for results] or anything else, we’re putting pressure on ourselves for form and to make improvements from game-to-game and that’ll be no different this weekend.”
As for the Kingdom, who Monaghan beat in their Killarney backyard in last year’s corresponding fixture, O’Rourke has been impressed by what he has seen from their wins over Mayo and Donegal.
“Kerry have been very impressive. They’ve obviously gone with a very deliberate plan of introducing a lot of their underage talent and I suppose they’ve more underage talent than any other county,” he said.
“I think they’re won the last four minor All-Ireland titles, so they’re got an influx of really talented players coming through and they seem hungry. They start off really well, they’re playing good football, they’re playing aggressive football, so it’s going be a great challenge for us because that’s what you get in the first division, you get playing against top quality opposition.
“It gives us a good measure of where we’re at. Every week poses a challenge that you have to try to adapt to and, I suppose, impose your game plan on the opposition. All these games are very much 50-50 and it’ll be an interesting battle ahead, hopefully.”