Ulster U-20 Championship quarter-final
Monaghan v Cavan
Friday, Inniskeen, 8.15pm
By Shaun Casey
MONAGHAN’S “El Classico” with Cavan on Friday evening is as difficult an opener as you could ask for, according to Farney coach Dermot Malone.
The sides met in the opening round of the league, a game that Monaghan won, but the Breffni men have made big improvements since then.
“We’ve done a lot of work, a lot of preparation. We’ve struggled like most teams to get a full team out but hopefully we’ll not be a million miles away from it come Friday night.
“The league’s been very good, very beneficial. We learned a lot about our set up and individual players. We played Cavan in the first round of the league, and we were very fortunate to win it in the end. I think we only won by one or two points, but I think we can consider ourselves very, very fortunate and I know since then Cavan have strengthened significantly. So, we’re going to have our backs to the wall going in on Friday.”
The Ulster Championship is a different ball game of course and Malone doesn’t see the league meeting having too much of an impact this weekend.
The Castleblayney man admits both teams will have taken some learning from that league clash and isn’t expecting anything easy on Friday.
“I’m sure both teams would have learned something about each other, individually and collectively,” said the two-time Ulster winner.
“Cavan have been on a great run recently and all of a sudden, they’ve turned into probably one of, if not, the team to beat in Ulster at the minute.
“Ulster Championship football is never going to be easy but particularly whenever you’re in an El Classico, it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Monaghan reached the final of the competition last season, eventually losing to Down by seven points after extra-time.
They’ve retained some of last year’s squad, with the likes of Shane Hanratty, Jason Irwin, Michael Hamill and captain Ronan Boyle adding some experience to the panel.
“I think we’ve eight men from last year so there’s that wee bit of experience and that wee bit of strength in depth still there and hopefully that will be beneficial for us when we need it.”
While the continuity is important, last year’s run doesn’t instantly mean success will follow this year and Monaghan won’t be looking past Friday evening.
“We’re not going to get to far ahead of ourselves now I don’t think. You’d be a very foolish man to ever look past your first championship game.
“As every team, we’d love to start winning silverware but I’m sure there’s a couple of boys from last year will definitely have learned their lessons. They’re going to be a year older and a year wiser but as I say, I don’t think we’ll be looking too much further past Friday night.”
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