Defending Ulster champions Monaghan will know they must put their dismal record against Tyrone in championship football behind them this weekend when they go head-to-head in an eagerly awaited Ulster quarter-final at Clones.
You have to go back to 1988 for the last time that the Farney men beat the Red Hands and that was in the Ulster final. Since then Tyrone have had the upper hand each time they have met including last season at Croke Park and All Ireland winning defender Ciaran Gourley feels that trend is set to continue though it will be close.
“Monaghan ended a long wait last season to get their hands on the Anglo Celt Cup and you can be sure that they aren’t going to give it up without a fight,” said the Rock clubman.
“They find themselves in the unusual position of going in against Tyrone in an Ulster championship game as defending champions and that will bring added pressure to them. They will badly miss the scoring threat of Conor McManus but they will still feel that they have enough quality within their squad to end that poor run of results.
They will be determined to show that last season’s success wasn’t a one off and that makes them dangerous opponents. Having said that Tyrone will have no fear of playing in Clones as a lot of the players have probably played more championship games there than the Monaghan players themselves.”
Monaghan had a superb National league campaign that saw them beat Donegal in the division two decider and while Ciaran admits that was a good achievement for Malachy O’Rourke’s side he also states that the championship is a completely different ball game.
“They looked impressive in the league final but when you saw the way Donegal played in the championship against Derry perhaps you wouldn’t look too much into that result at Croke Park,” said Ciaran.
“Monaghan are at a disadvantage as they are the last team to enter this year’s Ulster championship and they have had to watch everyone else and that’s not easy. Tyrone on the other hand have had two tough games against Down behind them and I feel that will stand to them.
People questioned Tyrone after the drawn game but they showed character to come back that day and in many ways the second game will have helped them as Mickey made a few changes in personnel and it worked.
Justin McMahon may not have played much football this year so far but Tyrone looked more defensively sound with him in the team while at the other end of the field we scored three goals in the replay and could have had another couple.
Ronan O’Neill looked sharp while the likes of Niall McKenna did well when he came on and I think Mickey will have a better idea of his side now. My head and heart both go for Tyrone with maybe three points to spare.”