Two out of three ain't bad, but Monaghan want a clean sweep says Fintan Kelly
THERE are four teams left in this year’s All-Ireland Football Championship and Monaghan have already beaten two: Tyrone (in Ulster) and Galway (last weekend in the final phase of the Super 8s).
If all goes to plan for the Farneymen, they’ll beat Tyrone for a second time at Croke Park on Sunday and it’ll be a surprise if they don’t face Dublin in the final.
After last weekend’s resounding win in Galway, delighted Monaghan fans celebrated on the Pearse Stadium pitch like the Sam Maguire was already in the bag.
The Farney players celebrated too – and rightly so – but like the rest of his team-mates, Fintan Kelly is well aware that Monaghan had cleared one hurdle only to find an even bigger one in their path. Sunday’s All-Ireland semi – the biggest all-Ulster clash since 2004’s All-Ireland final between Armagh and Tyrone - promises to be an epic.
Asked how he would put the memory of beating Galway to bed in time to focus on Tyrone, Kelly replied: “I can’t tell you the answer to be honest, but hopefully we’ll learn very quickly how to do it.
“We’re a very grounded bunch and there are a lot of leaders in that team, so I’d say they’ll guide us the right way anyway.
“It (beating Galway) means a lot to Monaghan supporters who have followed us through thick and thin. After the Fermanagh game (a shock loss in the Ulster semi-final), they could have walked away but they didn't, they came back and went straight down to Waterford, down to Leitrim and to Laois to follow us.
“They’ve followed us everywhere in a massive crowd and we get a serious buzz from that. It's great for the supporters but as players we have to come down very quickly because we have a massive game on Sunday.
“There's no point getting to a semi-final after this long waiting to getting to it and not showing up. So that's the next thing, coming down now very quickly.”
Monaghan travelled to Galway needing at least a draw but they produced a tour de force to beat their hosts by eight points and take top spot in group A. Theories that Galway were saving themselves for Saturday’s clash with Dublin have abounded since and, while there may be an element of truth in them, their loss to the Farneymen was poor preparation for crossing swords with the three in-a-row All-Ireland champions.
“There was a lot at stake for us,” said Clones clubman Kelly.
“Galway were through, and if Galway were hungrier than us then it would have been a bad sign.
“We had to be hungrier than Galway and thankfully we were, and we pushed on. We took the right decisions - we could have come out second half with the wind and took shots from everywhere, but we worked it in, in front of their goal and took the right options and that was very good.
“We had a cushion this week that we didn't have against Kerry, and that's massive - those few scores, four points, five points, six points… It was massive for us because what happened against Kerry wasn't good enough.”
Sunday’s clash will be Monaghan’s first semi-final since the days of Nudie Hughes, Eamonn McEnaney and Ray McCarron who took on Cork in the 1988 All-Ireland semi-final. Kelly and his team-mates hope to go a step further and reach a first final since 1930.
“It's a grounded bunch with a lot of leaders there,” he said with a nod towards the Monaghan dressingroom.
“Nobody gets ahead of themselves in this team and that's probably a sign of where we've come to now.”