“Waving the white flag in the Tailteann Cup won’t do Down much good” – James McCartan
The weather in Clones had been cold and damp all afternoon and the 5,418 entry was well short of normal Clones championship days. This combined with the feeling that the result was inevitable gave him a pre-season feel. However, Monaghan manager Séamus McEnaney was in full championship mode.
With only minor shakes, his side had made for a downside that wasn’t expected to offer much resistance. McEnaney paused to offer his condolences to Aoibhe Byrne’s family after the 14-year-old died in a tragic accident and was poised to bust some myths.
“We’ve been accused of not handling the favorites tags well,” said ‘Banty’.
“The reality is Monaghan has won nine of their last 11 Ulster Championship first round games and they have been favorites for all 11 so I think that’s a bit of a myth.
“We are very happy about the result, we showed a very relaxed performance today. We felt like we could win the game if we came here and it was all about our performance and not about anything else. Any day you get 23 points is a good day, there aren’t many negatives.”
Even taking into account Down’s poor showing, it was hard to refute his assessment. Monaghan was consistently better in every area of the field. They were never headers and had scored 20 points by the 56th minute. The full forward axis of Jack McCarron, Gary Mohan and Conor McManus contributed 0-17 (5 free spins, 3 points).
For once, McManus wasn’t the oldest man in attack for Monaghan as McCarron’s good form continued, although you’d have little chance of the former feeling into the season. Newcomer Mohan will have tougher days but good in the air and direct, his development will be watched with interest as Monaghan progresses and the air thins.
Monaghan had 11 different goalscorers in total, including four of their starting defenders. They also kicked just two wides in the entire game as part of a remarkably efficient performance. They were nine points up late in the first half before conceding a quick 2-1 at half-time on either side.
First Caolan Mooney scored and just seconds after the restart Pat Havern found the net. Somehow Down were only two behind. If ever a full blown championship game would break out, it was at this point.
However, Monaghan reacted and kicked the next four on the spin with a great pass from Darren Hughes that cleared Conor McCarthy for a fine point. And from then on it was just a matter of accounting.
“Yes, we conceded two goals,” McEnaney said. “You will make mistakes, there will be mistakes in the games. How you recover from the mistakes is the most important thing.”
For Down, the misery continued. They have three survivors from the class of 2010 that reached the All Ireland final under McCartan (Brendan McArdle, Darren O’Hagan and Kevin McKernan) but they now have a winning streak of just one eight league draw and Championships have gotten outings this year.
That poor form extends to last year when they lost to Donegal by 13 points in Ulster. They won twice in the league in 2021, beating Laois, now tied to Division 4 to retain their league status.
The other was a dead rubber against Westmeath. McCartan acknowledged his team was in a difficult position. But would they be difficult to motivate for a Tailteann Cup campaign?
“The answer to that is I hope not,” McCartan said. “I don’t know the answer to that. I ask the group there (in the dressing room) do they want to move forward as a group?
“The Tailteann Cup is what’s left for us. That’s the opportunity for young players and veteran players to try and turn a corner, so there’s an opportunity there and certainly it’s not going to be of much use to down football to go out at the Tailteann Cup and fly the white flag sway.
“We’re just trying to create building blocks for the future for Down and going forward next year we’re going to be in Division 3 and we’ve got the Tailteann Cup and we’re going to try and win some football games.
“Look, we know where we are, we just have to turn a corner. But turning a corner means stopping a slide first, and that’s what happens.”
Scorers – Monaghan: J McCarron 0-7 (2w, 1m); C. McManus 0-4 (3f); G.Mohan 0-3 (2m); R Began 0-2 (1f, 1’45); S Carey, C Boyle, K Duffy, A Woods, K Hughes, C McCarthy, R Wylie 0-1 each. Below: P Havern 1-1; C Mooney 1-0; D Guinness, C Poland, A Gilmore (f), B O’Hagan (’45), C Francis, T Rushe (f) 0-1 each.
Monaghan – R Beggan 7; K Duffy 7, C Boyle 8, R Wylie 7; R McAnespie 6, D Ward 6, C McCarthy 6; D Hughes 8, N Kearns 6; A Woods 6, K Hughes 6, M Bannigan 6; J McCarron 8, G Mohan 8, C McManus 6. Substitutes: S Carey 6 for Bannigan (42), D Wylie 7 for Duffy (55), K O’Connell 6 for D Hughes (59), C Leonard for Kearns (62 ). ), S. Jones for Woods (65), D. Garland for O’Connell (BS 74).
Below – N Kane 6; P Fegan 5, B McArdle 6, D O’Hagan 5; R Magill 5, N McParland 6, R McCormack 5; C Mooney 6, O Murdock 6; R. McEvoy 6, C. Poland 6, B. O’Hagan 5; C Francis 6, A Gilmore 6, P Havern 6. Subs: R O’Hare 6 for Gilmore (30), D Guinness 6 for Francis (40), A Doherty 6 for McEvoy (50), T Rushe 5 for Havern (54 ). ), G Collins for McArdle (61).
Ref – F Kelly (Longford)
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/waving-white-flag-in-tailteann-cup-wont-be-of-much-benefit-to-down-james-mccartan-41606136.html “Waving the white flag in the Tailteann Cup won’t do Down much good” – James McCartan