Monaghan boss Trevor Hilliard ready to go head-to-head with former manager Mattie Lennon
Nicky Rackard Cup round one: Monaghan v Tyrone (Saturday, 3pm, Inniskeen)
HAVING played under Mattie Lennon, current Monaghan boss Trevor Hilliard knows what it will take to get one over on his former boss today.
Armagh native Lennon was in charge of the Farney County during the early part of the decade, when former Louth stalwart Hilliard had just transferred to Monaghan.
Lennon left the Farney job in controversial circumstances, walking away because of a fixtures dispute regarding club football games and Monaghan’s scheduled Division 3A final date with Fingal.
Despite that acrimonious end in April 2012, Lennon had the backing of the Farney players, and Hilliard knows the Derrynoose man will have Tyrone well prepared for today’s Nicky Rackard showdown in Inniskeen.
“You have to take your hat off to Mattie, he’s a good man. I played against Mattie for years and I played under him as well,” said Hilliard.
“I’ll know what he’s putting into his boys so I have to make sure we have our work done as well.”
Monaghan suffered a heavy defeat in their last outing, a 6-28 to 0-9 reversal against Derry in the semi-final of the Ulster Shield.
The Oak Leafs scored an unanswered 4-9 in the final 13 minutes against a depleted Farney side but, despite the margin of defeat, Hilliard insists that result is irrelevant.
He had only four regulars starting that day, but welcomes back the likes of Mark Treanor, Niall Garland, Stephen Lambe and Paddy Finnegan for the visit of the Red Hands.
The counties have a bit recent history too, having met twice during the National League – both registering a win apiece.
Monaghan beat Tyrone 3-15 to 1-11 in Omagh on the opening day of their Division 3A campaign, but Tyrone had the last laugh on the final weekend, winning by seven points to secure promotion.
Landing that elusive Nicky Rackard title remains their main ambition though, and Hilliard insists the Farneymen are looking forward to renewing their rivalry with the Red Hands today.
He said: “We showed them too much respect the last day, in most parts of the game we were nearly bullied so it’s something we have been working on. We know Tyrone will be a big challenge for us.
“Damian Casey is a big danger, Pierse O’Kelly gave us a bit of a trimming the last day so we’ll have to watch him a wee bit more this time around. Conor Grogan did well too, so if you can keep those three quiet you should be in with a shout.”