Monaghan playing the long game

All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship – Round One

Monaghan v Meath

Saturday, Drumhowan, 2pm

By Michael McMullan

MONAGHAN host All-Ireland champions Meath on Sunday in the first game of their defence of the Brendan Martin Cup, but the Farney County are playing the long game insists Abbie McCarey.

After playing for the county all the way through underage, she is now in her six season with the county squad.

A summer in America and two years finishing off her college studies in Galway saw her miss out on the county scene, but she’s enthusiastic about the future of the game in Monaghan.

“I’ve seen a bit of change in the last couple of years. I am at the latter stage of my career too; there are a lot of young girls but the experience left behind doesn’t go amiss either really,” said McCarey, who is also putting her heart and soul into the development of the game in her native Scotstown.

Even during a short phone conversation you can sense the ambition is fuelled from a deep-rooted passion.

“Monaghan have had a lot of underage success and are continuing to do so at the moment,” she said.

“There is a huge interest in Ladies Football…it is growing by the second in Ireland. There are a lot of girls getting involved now.”

There has also been a noticeable increase in men joining in with their efforts to coach the teams in Scotstown and it feeds into the big picture across the county.

“The sport is developing and we’ve had success at u-16 and minor levels in Ulster and are getting to the latter stages of the All-Ireland. It is great to see, to bring on the youth, which is good,” she said, while paying tribute to the household names that planted the seeds all those years ago.

There is a comparison to the men’s game in Ulster, with a competitive Ulster Championship that produced another classic in the final with Armagh edging out Donegal after extra time by the narrowest of margins.

“Donegal and Armagh have been progressing for a number of years and Armagh are phenomenal to watch. They are very fast and well-drilled,” she said.

Armagh ended Monaghan’s Ulster hopes and it was eventual winners Kerry that prevented an all-Ulster Division Two decider in the league.

“That was incredibly frustrating that day because we were so close, it was just a kick of the ball,” McCarey added.

Like every team in any sport, the start of the season brings targets and goals. In the case of Monaghan Ladies, it’s coated with a degree of realism of where they rest in the overall big picture.

“We have a youthful side and the plan is to build a team for the future. We are going to be less competitive in the Championship this year to what we have been in other years,” she said.

Their ambitions need a starting point and the example Meath have shown in coming from Division Three to become All-Ireland champions has been “the story” of the Ladies Football scene.

“They have just opened it up, showing that anything is possible if you put in the work,” Abbie said.

It’s all about a management team; a plan and a group of players putting their shoulder to the wheel.

And all while managing all the work and study commitment on the outside.

Looking ahead to Saturday, Monaghan have “nothing to lose” when Meath come to town.

“It will be a big occasion for a lot of the girls and they won’t have played a game of this stature in the past,” Abbie said.

“I am excited…when you are going in as the underdog; it’s the best position to be in. There is nothing to lose, the excitement will take over and the nerves will be forgotten about.”

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