GAA Football

Defeating Dublin once more may be beyond Monaghan

Monaghan's Micheal Bannigan battles with Dublin defender Jonny Cooper in Clones last year. Pic Philip Walsh

Allianz Football League Division One, round three: Dublin v Monaghan (Croke Park, 7pm tonight)

EXCUSES and/or explanations can be made for Dublin's defeats to Monaghan in the past two league campaigns but there's no doubt that a third would be absolutely deserved.

Two years ago the Farneymen's win at Croke Park came in round seven with the hosts already assured of a place in the Division One Final.

Last season's victory in Clones was in round one, against an understrength, undercooked Dubs.

Tonight, Monaghan will meet a Dublin side doubly determined to get the two points, for several reasons.

The Dubs obviously don't like losing, especially not against the same opponents. Even not winning bothers them, and having failed to hold off Kerry in their season opener they'll want to record a home victory.

None more so than new boss Dessie Farrell, even after the traditional win over Mayo in Castlebar last weekend.

Monaghan, of course, have a different manager too. Although this isn't Seamus McEnaney's first rodeo he's relishing being back on the big ride, even if it's sure to be more of a rollercoaster than Dublin's smooth-running conveyor belt of continuous triumph.

‘Banty' got the better of the Dubs in his first meeting, and in some style, a seven-point success in Division 1A in 2006 – but those were different days, and that also proved to be Monaghan's only win, the campaign ending in relegation.

Two years later the counties drew, in Division Two, but Dublin topped the table and went up to the top flight, where they've remained ever since.

Monaghan got up a year later, and Banty just about kept them in Division One thanks to their two wins coming against the other teams who also ended up on four points, Ulster rivals Derry and Tyrone, who both went down. The Farneymen followed suit the following year, and even dropped down to Division Three, before Malachy O'Rourke brought them up and made them Division One Fixtures for five seasons.

That's the task for McEnaney, and the brains trust in his backroom team of Peter Donnelly and Conor Laverty – to extend their stay.

Even with three more home games to come, following on from their comfortable win over Tyrone in Castleblayney, Monaghan will grasp greedily at any points, or point, they can add.

Dublin are the outstanding force in the game, but there'll still be plenty of Monaghan belief in their own abilities. Indeed a number of the visiting side gained valuable early experience at Dublin universities, played alongside members of the team which completed an unprecedented All-Ireland five-in-a-row last year.

The likes of Conor McCarthy, Conor Boyle, Dessie Ward, Shane Carey, Micheal Bannigan, and new captain Ryan Wylie are among the ample evidence that Monaghan are much more than the ‘one-man show' of Conor McManus.

Yet they may still need some magic from the Clontibret conjuror if they are to rack up sufficient scores against a largely experienced Dublin defence; even the ‘non-regulars' involved so far have All-Irelands to their name – Rory O'Carroll and Eric Lowndes.

Farrell has engaged in slightly more experimentation in attack so far, with starts for Conor McHugh and then Dan O'Brien lining out last weekend in Castlebar. Yet there still have been plenty of familiar faces up front, in Ciaran Kilkenny, Dean Rock, Kevin McManamon, and Niall Scully, plus Paddy Andrews, and Paul Mannion off the bench.

Dublin's depth of talent doesn't guarantee success, or results along the way, but it does make their continued dominance much more likely.

Monaghan will have to really earn anything and everything tonight. They've shown they are capable of causing shocks, but Dublin should have enough quality to avoid an unwanted treble.

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