“YOU’RE addicted to improvement,” Scotstown attacker Shane Carey says – and he’s not just talking about himself.
This Sunday An Bhoth will chase their fifth Monaghan title in-a-row, a feat achieved just once before by the Oriel club when they ruled the roost from 1977 to 1981.
Regardless of this weekend’s outcome against Clontibret it has been an incredible journey for the team, but manager Kieran Donnelly is not prepared to pull up the handbrake just yet.
Take, for example, the fact that he put in a phone call to his old mate Peter Canavan to see if he’d come in and work with the squad to improve their attacking play.
The results have not been groundbreaking, but their scoring in the county championship has moved from an average of 15.75 points per game in 2018 to 19.25 points per game this year.
That includes the low 1-8 tally in the drawn match with Ballybay, a score that can be excused by the monsoon conditions.
“Peter has been brilliant, he has been a breath of fresh air,” Carey said.
“Personally I love working with him and I think we do as a group too.
“Even before that, we had ‘KD’ (Donnelly), and Ferghal Quinn. The two of them have been absolutely fantastic.
“Mick McCormack and Paraic Duffy obviously too. Paraic is a man who has been about a lot of places and he brings a different dimension.
“As a management team, they form a very group. As they said they’re there to get the best out of us and they are there to facilitate the players. I think as a package they are absolutely fantastic.”
It’s been a tough few weeks for Donnelly’s men. Carey’s goal brought them back into their semi-final with Ballybay with the sides eventually finishing level at full-time. Extra-time was due to be played but the weather was so horrendous that a decision was made to go to a replay instead.
Carey again found the net in that second encounter, as did Michael McCarville and Conor McCarthy, as they progressed to the final following a 3-12 to 1-13 win.
The attacker doesn’t believe that they are too much of a disadvantage having missed out on a week’s rest compared to Clontibret.
“We’re coming off the back of a seven or eight-day turnaround so all we’re focusing on is our performance,” he said.
“It’s pure performance focus at the moment and trying to stick to the process to get that right.
“It (the lack of a break) probably wouldn’t factor in as much as you think. I do think it brings you on as well to a certain degree.
“It’s all about getting a performance against a very strong Clontibret team, a Clontibret team that has shown up very consistently all year in league and championship.
“We’re fully aware of the task ahead and we have to focus on our performance.
“They will bring that good form into the game. That’s what they will be looking to do.
“We’ll be the same, we’ll be looking to bring our best into the game and that’s all you can control.
“We can’t control what Clontibret are going to do on Sunday or things like the weather. All we can control is our own preparations and how we are going to set up.”
Like their opponents, it has been a real rollercoaster of a campaign for Scotstown.
They easily won a shoot-out against Doohamlet before edging past Truagh Gaels following extra-time. Then there was that two-game saga with Ballybay.
“Anyone who has been following it can see that it has been very stop-starty,” said Carey, who missed the first round game due to a suspension carried over from last year’s Ulster final loss to Gaoth Dobhair.
“I thought we had a good opening round performance against Doohamlet albeit with room for improvement, definitely.
“We did improve to a certain extent but we didn’t get a full performance against Truagh and it went to extra-time. Winning on penalties was an experience in itself.
“The first day against Ballybay was a bits-and-bobs performance and I thought we improved a bit for the second day.
“Again though, I still feel there is room for improvement. You’re addicted to improvement. That’s the focus going into the game, asking what can we do better as a collective and individuals.”
On the basis of the last five seasons, the answer is not much. Scotstown, however, will never stop striving for more.