GAA Football

Monaghan manager Mark Counihan hails his Ulster Minor winners but more work still to be done

The victorious Monaghan squad celebrate after lifting the Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship title with a win over Tyrone on Sunday July 14 2019. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Francis Mooney

A second successive Ulster title was consumed like a tonic by Monaghan manager Mark Counihan, a first back-to-back triumph for the county at Minor level since 1940.

Counihan hailed the performance of his talented players, but admitted they have plenty to work on in terms of finishing, after shooting 17 wides at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday evening.

It should have been much closer in the end, but a two-point margin was enough to seal a sweet success over Tyrone for the Farney.

“We probably should have had a more comfortable win, but overall we're very, very happy with the level of performance,” he said.

“There was a lot of them (wides) came in the second half. The boys' shooting was top class in the first half, when we hit nine points.

“It kinda ebbed and flowed that way in the first half, both teams were able to get scores. But I think we got to grips with the game in the second half.”

Michael McGleenan stunned the holders with a goal straight from the throw-in at the start of the second half, but the Monaghan boss never felt under pressure at that early stage.

“The fact that the goal came from the throw-in, it gave us time to settle and get ourselves back into it, and we kicked the next point.

“If you're going to concede, I suppose that's the time to do it, it was no sucker punch.”

And Monaghan were able to respond with a Michael Hamill goal before the end of the third quarter.

“Our goal, when it came, it gave us a huge lease of life. We actually really kicked on after that. Michael Hamill, I don't know how he managed to dance around the way he did and end up with an empty net.

“But he's a fantastic player, he made that wee bit of space, he's a fantastic player, and that definitely got us on our way to the win.”

Monaghan will engage in some shooting practice over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for an All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Cork, but their manager doesn't feel there are too many problems to be addressed.

“It's a final. There's another day to worry about that, we felt we left a lot of scores behind us today.

“They'll learn from it, you can't forget, these boys are 16, 17 years of age, and the game that Monaghan and Tyrone provided for spectators, I thought was fantastic, lots of high fielding, lots of high energy, scores.

“If you look at the conditions that were here, it was hard to keep that going, and both teams were a credit.”

For Counihan and his players, the journey continues against the beaten Munster finalists.

“When you're in the preliminary round in Ulster, it's a long way to the top of that mountain.

“The boys have met every challenge with flying colours, and again today.

“We have Cork now, and we have two weeks to get ready for it, a brand new challenge, a fresh challenge.

“We played them in a challenge game earlier in the year, and they actually beat us by double scores, they were very impressive, and it's going to take a lot of work to get to the top of the mountain.”

Meanwhile, Tyrone boss Collie Holmes gained some comfort from the quality of his side's defensive performance.

“We set our defensive stall out and they weren't going to kick the four and five goals that they had kicked all year.

“They only got one goal, but it ultimately ended up being the decisive goal.”

And as they prepare to meet All-Ireland champions Kerr in the last eight, he added: “Although we were beaten, we're happy with a lot of positives.

“We set out our stall to try and contain them, and we tried our best to do that, and actually got ahead at the start of the second half, but in the heat it was hard to contain them.”

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