Conor McManus "a great advertisement for the GAA" says former Dublin defender Cian O'Sullivan

Former Dublin defender Cian O'Sullivan describes Conor McManus as a 'magical player'
Former Dublin defender Cian O'Sullivan describes Conor McManus as a 'magical player'

HE may not be fit for a full 70 minutes of do-or-die championship action anymore if Monaghan are to pull off a shock for the ages and beat Dublin in Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final, they’ll need Conor McManus to be at his best.

The Clontibret sharpshooter has been reduced to substitute appearances during the Farneymen’s run to the last four this season but remains one of the best in the business.

When Monaghan’s backs were against the ropes in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Armagh, it was McManus who stepped up and, as he has done countless times down through the years, delivered when it was most required.

McManus, now 35 years of age, won a late free and with the last kick of the day drew the sides level to bring the game to penalties. When faced with two spot kicks, no-one fired the ball home to the goal with the same aplomb as McManus.

Cian O’Sullivan manned the Dublin defence for a number of years and came up against McManus in both League and Championship on numerous occasions.

“I don’t know if I was ever directly man-marking him but what a magical player, what a great advertisement for the GAA,” said O’Sullivan, who ended his inter-county career with a haul of eight All-Ireland medals.

“I don’t know what age he is but to be still out there and have that level of impact is something to behold so I have a lot of admiration for him.

“I do remember playing against him and him being a fierce competitor, which is always a sign of a great player. You can have the shooting ability and skills he has but he was really dogged too and never took a backwards step.

“And he is very smart. I remember playing in that six role (sweeper) and he was trying to disrupt whatever structure of organisation we were trying to put on our defensive play by either running across to distract our extra man or [getting him to]step up on him so there was an intelligence in his play too that everyone is well aware of.

“That was ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff last weekend (against Armagh). I was in Spain listening to it the last 10 or 15 minutes on the edge of my seat and I thought it was one of the most intriguing and dramatic games of football ever – and then hearing after it wasn’t as good a spectacle as that in normal time. But what a way to finish it.”

Dublin are favourites to progress to the decider but when they last faced Monaghan it was the Farneymen who came out on top. That was in the final round of the 2022 National Football League and Jack McCarron’s late free relegated the Dubs to Division Two.

While they were able to bounce back up to the top tier at the first time of asking this season, collecting the Division Two title along the way, O’Sullivan believes Dessie Farrell’s side could be seeking revenge for that defeat.

“That’s what I think makes it so intriguing for me. I’m not part of the group anymore so I have no clue how they’re framing this season,” added the three-time Allstar.

“Are they using that?... In previous set-ups we would have completely ignored all that stuff in the past. That was a distraction whereas now there is energy to be gained off that. There definitely is, so are they using that? I don’t know. We’ll see.”