National Football League Division One
Monaghan v Kerry
Sunday, Inniskeen, 2pm
STEPHEN O’Hanlon has returned to the Monaghan squad to boost Seamus McEnaney’s attacking options for the rest of the season.
Gaelic Life understands that the Carrickmacross speed machine re-joined the panel in recent weeks although he will not feature in Sunday’s crucial Division One clash with Kerry at Grattan Park, Inniskeen.
The talented basketball player had a debut to remember in 2019 as he scored a brilliant individual goal against Dublin before setting up Shane Carey for Monaghan’s second major in that win at Clones.
He was unable to make an impact in last year’s championship though. He started in the Ulster loss to Cavan before being replaced by Mícheál Bannigan. He was then restricted to cameos from the bench in the Qualifier encounters against Fermanagh and Armagh.
After opting out for 2020, O’Hanlon has had a change of heart and given McEnaney’s track record of getting a lot out of younger players, he will be hoping to utilise the player’s strengths moving forward.
That will come later in the season and for now all focus is on the visit of the Kingdom. The counties clashed at this ground two years ago with Conor McManus’s penalty helping the home side to a two-point win in tough weather conditions.
That win came early in the season and Monaghan’s need for points is much greater this time around.
They sit just one place above the relegation zone and two points clear of Mayo. The visit of Meath to Clones next Sunday will present a golden opportunity for the one win that should be enough, but how they would love to get the job all but done this weekend.
They had been playing very well in the early stages of the league but a heavy loss to Donegal last time out would have just planted a few seeds of doubt.
A horrible swirling wind does put an asterisk beside the result, but the Oriel county would have been very disappointed with the 2-12 to 0-8 loss.
Particularly worrying was their inability to contain Donegal midfield pairing Michael Langan and Hugh McFadden who hit 1-5 from play between them. Niall Kearns and the Hughes brothers, Darren and Kieran, have been giving the side a real foothold in that area all season so it was a bit of a surprise.
Kieran Hughes spent a lot of the day back in a man-marking job on Michael Murphy but he’ll likely be around the centre this time around to try and put the shackles on the likes of Jack Barry.
It’s attacking duo Sean O’Shea and David Clifford that will need most watching by the Oriel county.
Clifford’s star continues to rise at a rate of knots and he has scored 2-21 in his first five games. Impressively, 2-12 of that has come from play.
Monaghan already know how dangerous he can be thanks to his famous ‘Super Eight’ goal at Clones in 2018 and they must really get their defensive match-up right for him.
Kerry travel north with a bit of attention on them following Donie Buckley’s surprise exit from Peter Keane’s management ream at the weekend.
The highly-rated coach was credited with giving the Mayo defence some structure when he came in after the 2012 All-Ireland final loss to Donegal.
A statement from Kerry chairman Tim Murphy said that they were not seeking a replacement.
“It is not intended to make any further appointments to the senior football management team.
“The existing management team will continue to take responsibility for all aspects of team preparation and selection.”
Monaghan will hope to take advantage of the uncertainty and pick up a crucial two points in the process.