GAA Football


Danny Hughes: Monaghan and Tyrone through after intense, emotional weekend

Monaghan celebrate their epic win over Armagh.
Pic Philip Walsh

Monaghan were absolutely brilliant in their win against Armagh.

It was a tragic 24 hours though, with the death of Brendan Og Duffy, the U-20 Captain, shocking the entire GAA community.

Having led his young charges into a final just a few hours beforehand, Brendan Og lost his life in the most tragic of circumstances.

I consider myself a spiritual person, probably more spiritual than religious, but I cannot help but to ask myself 'Why?' in circumstances such as those that occurred last Friday evening.

Brendan Og Duffy was obviously a leader, chosen by successive managers and players to captain a very talented side.

I often think of such people as born warriors and clearly individuals such as Brendan Og would be first to put their life on the line for others if it came to a matter of choice.

I have no doubt he will inspire that generation of U-20, minor and senior players to honour him in the most appropriate of ways, winning.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

On the actual football game, Monaghan were able to arrest the momentum clearly going against them and go from two points down late on, to winning.

Anyone who has played the game will testify, when momentum is against you, it can be like holding back the tide.

Monaghan spirit, if it could be bottled, would earn millions.

Given the circumstances surrounding the fixture and knowing Armagh, their supporters, management and players, no one will begrudge The Farney this victory.

However when Kieran McGeeney gets the opportunity to review this game in forensic detail he will experience all sorts of positive and negative emotions.

Fundamentally, those same failings at the back, the Achilles heel for so many seasons under McGeeney, continue to outweigh any progress made by this Armagh team.

It could be that the personnel in defence is simply not there to keep teams such as Monaghan, Tyrone and Donegal from inflicting serious damage on the scoreboard.

So in the absence of the talent one has to be practical and be structurally sound at the back.

Can this be done at the behest of an offensive approach?

Teams such as Dublin have managed to marry these two approaches perfectly but if Armagh take any solace from last weekend's defeat it is the fact that even teams such as Kerry struggle to get the dynamic right at times and they too have suffered.

You feel that Armagh have certainly made great strides this year and in a way are the biggest losers from a re-structured straight knock-out championship.

Given that COVID has prevented viable back-door games, there is a recognition that Armagh are gradually making their way to the top table and securing division one status was key to this.

I think enough change had occurred prior to this year's campaign with the addition of Kieran Donaghy and Ciaran McKeever to a management team to silence any negativity toward the future direction of Armagh.

In addition, McGeeney has a very loyal playing squad who talk about his key attributes in man management so I cannot see many changes in this context.

His opposite number Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney deserves huge credit for Monaghan's progress this year.

Returning to manage the same team is a bit like re-visiting a relationship with an ex-girlfriend, it is never the same the second time around.

However, in Banty's case, this tenure might be somewhat different.

An ageing squad profile made me question the logic of his return had I been in his shoes, having been a success in his first campaign as manager.

He had lifted expectations, standards and belief and although this may not have transferred into silverware, it certainly won them many admirers at the time.

After a shock defeat last season against Cavan, I did fear the pressure would come on early in his management return, however given the relegation win against Galway and the win last weekend, McEnaney is realising the cliché that there is fight in the old dog yet.

Tyrone are a big test, however they struggled to put a 14-man Donegal side away minus Michael Murphy.

Monaghan will be looking answers of their own given that Armagh managed to snatch a lead coming into the last five minutes.

I do not feel Tyrone are completely comfortable in their identity yet nor do they seem completely comfortable on a personnel front either.

How do you leave Conor McKenna and Cathal McShane out of a Tyrone side when they appear fit to play a game in its entirety?

Like all commentary on the matter, we don't see what the management see in training, nor their form, however both latter individuals are 'big game' players, who ultimately are capable of producing it on the big stage.

I have experienced enough brilliant player performances at training to know that matches are an altogether different proposition.

Given the knockout nature of the championship, McShane and McKenna need minutes and games and while they start from the bench it will do nothing for their confidence nor that of the team.

McShane is the Red Hands' ideal target man at full-forward accompanying Darren McCurry, who is in the form of his life.

McKenna could be facilitated anywhere such is his athleticism.

Dooher and Logan have showed maturity though in not disregarding the good attributes and work done by Tyrone under Mickey Harte in the defensive elements of the game.

You feel that they are trying to be more offensive – it is a case of walking before you can run in that regard.

I was very disappointed in Tyrone's Michael McKernan's use of gamesmanship tactics, gesticulating to Joe McQuillan to issue Michael Murphy with a card.

It took away from a brilliant individual performance he put in and that innate predisposition to use unsportsmanlike behaviour follows Tyrone around when considering that past players displayed similar behaviours.

The reality is that Murphy would probably have walked regardless of any player pressure and for him it summed up a lousy few months between injury and now a championship exit.

The key decision for Donegal and Declan Bonner is the continuation of their relationship an issue up for discussion next season.

I feel Bonner, in his second term, has been unlucky with COVID and given that and no-second chances, for most county boards, you should at least give managers another full season if possible.

For Bonner, it is whether he wants to or not but I think for individuals such as him, winning is the only way to leave, so he may well stick around and go again.

Monaghan U20 captain, Brendan Og Duffy, who died after a road collision on Friday night just hours after leading his team to an Ulster final.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access