QUESTION. Name the only Clontibret man to have played every minute of Monaghan’s 2019 championship campaign?
Conor McManus? No. Dessie Mone? No. Vinny Corey? No. The answer is Conor Boyle, who has quickly become one of the ‘Mr Reliables’ in the Oriel team.
That’s nothing new to Clontibret fans; it’s something he has been doing at club level for years.
He was doing it again in the Ulster quarter-final two weeks ago. A controlled performance saw him blunt out Oisin O’Neill and the Crossmaglen attack as the Monaghan men progressed to the last four. To see the Rangers’ tally (0-9) fall short of double digits is a rare beast indeed.
“It was a big win and there is a big buzz about the camp,” said Boyle, who is preparing a semi-final meeting with Naomh Conaill this Saturday.
“Some of our players are just coming into their own now and we saw that again in the Crossmaglen match.
“We got a good start and we felt we could control it from there. Given the weather conditions and the fact that there wasn’t much between the sides, we were very happy to get our noses in front and keep them at arm’s length.
“It was close though, a few free calls could have went either way and the result could have went either way too.”
Naomh Conaill have had plenty of coverage to this point given their three-game county final saga with Gaoth Dobhair.
They came through that and travelled to Kingspan Breffni four days later and recorded a 1-11 to 0-11 win over Castlerahan.
Not surprisingly, all six substitutes were used by manager Martin Regan in the second half. Each player got a standing ovation from the large travelling support as they departed.
In amongst those fans was McEntee who would have been suitably impressed by the resilience shown by the Glenties, something also obvious back in the 2010 Ulster final when he was called from the bench to help get Cross over the line against them at the same venue.
“It’s an interesting competition to be in, you’re not too familiar with the teams and you’re rolling on from the county final and that winning mentality,” Boyle continued.
“John (McEntee) is drilling into us what we need to do and we’re just taking it one step at a time.
“Of course you look at the opposition but the most important thing is to try and look after your own performance.
“We’ve seen Glenties coming through, they had four games in two weeks or something like that which was tough.
“Their level of fitness stands out big time for obvious reasons and the levels of energy they bring with it.
“They have a good mix of young and old and they will be coming to the bite for this game so we’ll just have to bring the performance that we did for our last two games (Scotstown and Crossmaglen) and hopefully we can get to the pitch of the game quickly.”
The O’Neill’s know that things could have been very different this year. In 2018 they were one league game from dropping down to intermediate level and now they are into the last four of the senior competition in Ulster.
Boyle doesn’t believe that there was any magic ingredient this year, just a case of more things falling into place.
“Last year John came in new and we had a lot of injury concerns,” said the defender, who picked up his third county medal with their win over Scotstown.
“Small things hurt us. The county season ran on a bit longer last year due to the All-Ireland semi-final and we had four or five players involved.
“This year we got a bit more time together, injuries cleared up and those things have all added up.
“We still made the semi-final of the championship last year but we had a difficult league. Mindset, boys tuning in this year, small things adding up have made a massive difference.
“This is the most enjoyable time of the year when you’re on this championship run. Trainings aren’t too arduous, you’re just going from game to game and everyone is just in good form.”