National Football League Division one
Dublin v Monaghan
Saturday, Croke Park, 7pm
BY RONAN SCOTT
Former Monaghan forward Tomas Freeman believes that his county men should be optimistic about recording a third league win in a row against Dublin.
Dessie Farrell’s team are the All-Ireland champions who achieved the historic achievement of winning five All-Ireland titles on the trot. They were held by Kerry in round one in a fantastic opener, but last week they responded with a 1-10 to 0-8 win over Mayo. Yet Monaghan have a good record against Dublin in the league, as they have won their last two encounters.
Freeman says that Monaghan are in great shape for the clash.
“Look we all know the size of the task that lies ahead, going up to Croke Park to play Dubiln. But I am sure that they boys are relishing the challenge.
“They are going to play the best team in the country. I am sure that Seamus will have them well set up.
“We have to go up the road thinking that we are going to win the match. If people heard you talking like that they might laugh at you, but Monaghan have beat them the last two years.
“People say league is league and championship is different. But them boys have experience of playing at Croke Park, they will be going up their looking for the win.”
One of the reasons for their optimism is that they are going into the game off the back of a good win over Tyrone.
Seamus McEnaney’s side beat Tyrone by 1-12 to 0-11 in Castleblayney. Tyrone had easily beaten Monaghan in the McKenna Cup, but the Farney men saved their best for the league clash.
Nine players scored in total.
They were excellent throughout, and the scoreline probably could have been greater.
“It was a major win for Monaghan. I would say they were delighted to come away with the two points.
“To bounce back after round one and beat Tyrone was a hard job to do. It was a great performance.”
Seamus McEnaney has returned to the team after a break during which time Malachy O’Rourke led the county to glory twice in the Ulster Championship.
The questions being asked now are can McEnaney push the county further down the road, essentially closer to an All-Ireland final.
A win over Tyrone in the league, a Tyrone team that are understrength and without key players is good, but there will be far greater challenges.
The short term goal is staying in division one, which Malachy O’Rourke’s teams were always capable of doing and they were helped in that regard in the last two years by wins over Dublin.
For Freeman, the team has changed since O’Rourke’s departure.
“There are new players who have transferred into the squad. Seamus has tried players out throughout the McKenna Cup. He has a new back room team as well. It’s a whole new set up.”
The back room team includese Peter Donnelly, formerly of Mickey Harte’s management team. He must have played his part in the Tyrone result.
There are a few new boys on the team, one of them is Aaron Mulligan, and he has impressed Freeman.
“I’ve seen him play, I like him a lot. He’s a very good player. He is young but this experience will help him.”
On Saturday Monaghan won’t have Kieran Hughes available to him after he received a straight red against Tyrone.
“It’s a big loss. Monaghan need all their top players. Going up against Dublin you can’t afford to be without anyone. They will just have to sit down and look at their possible replacements.”
But they still have plenty of experience there in the likes of Conor McManus, Karl O’Connell, Darren Hughes and the Wylies.