Ciaran Meenagh: Donegal will feel like hunters as Derry head to Ballybofey after Monaghan draw
All-Ireland SFC Group 4, round one
Derry 0-14 Monaghan 0-14
AFTER battling to a share of the spoils with one 'wounded animal', new Derry boss Ciaran Meenagh fears that Donegal will feel like "they are the hunters" in Ballybofey next weekend.
MacCumhaill Park may not be a lion's den now but the hosts will have had an extra week's preparation time and the Tyrone native now in charge of the Oak Leafers knows they face another tough test:
"It leaves them well up for it, it will leave them feeling they are the hunters. The last time we played Donegal [in Ballybofey] was two years and they beat us in the Ulster Championship.
"This year they played a division higher than Derry, so unless people read too much into what happened in the most recent term, that is going to be another huge test, another Ulster derby, it's away from home and they are notoriously difficult to beat there."
Monaghan made the point on Saturday evening that past form does not necessarily guarantee future performance.
Derry would have been regarded by many as home bankers after disposing of the Farneymen comfortably in the Ulster SFC semi-final a month before – but the visitors were ahead throughout the second two-thirds of this match until injury time at the end when Karl O'Connell rescued a draw for them after a rally by the hosts.
Meenagh made no excuses about the events in between, including the draining Ulster Final drama of a penalty shootout win over Armagh, suggesting that claims of a Derry 'hangover' "would be unjust on Monaghan.
"The way that game went in Omagh that day, maybe we got the bounce of the ball, maybe things went our way. They obviously learned a lot of lessons, they had four weeks to sit in the long grass and prepare accordingly.
"It's hard to know, if you look at the Armagh game [against Westmeath] you may say that. You may look at our edge and our intensity for a long part of that game today wasn't there, maybe you could argue that. Who knows, that will only become clear moving forward.
"You have to take your hats off to them, they deserve amazing respect. The manner we beat them in the last day and the way they dusted themselves down, they are a lesson to everybody in terms of how you come back.
"They have given their supporters great pride in following them for a long time. That was a wounded animal coming here today and it was going to leave them a difficult proposition and they will be a difficult for everybody moving forward."
Monaghan manager Vinny Corey was rightly proud of his team's performance but still "a wee bit disappointed when you put yourself in a position to win the match, it's disappointing not to do it. It would be different if we were coming from two points down and came back."
Yet he acknowledged that his side had shown much more the spirit associated with them over the past decade or so, saying: "But we were a point down… Listen, probably mixed emotions. In this league format, it's a point on the board. We could have been driving back down the road with nothing after getting sucker-punched so we have to see the positives."
Their big name forwards Conor McManus and Jack McCarron, who had both started last time out against Derry, only made late appearances as substitutes, but the Clontibret man insists both will still have parts to play, first against Clare in Clones, then against Donegal at a neutral venue:
"You have to balance everything up. We're in the unfortunate position that we only get a week to prepare for the next game so you have to manage all that.
"We need players fresh next weekend as well as this weekend. So you have to balance the whole thing out and we will be seeing a lot more of those boys as the year goes on."