By Niall McCoy
AFTER years of near misses and what could have beens, Monaghan champions Scotstown are readying themselves for another assault on the Ulster title.
The Oriel club have been one of the best teams in the province over the last number of years, but the current group have been unable to get over the line with narrow final losses to Crossmaglen in 2015 – after extra-time – and to Gaoth Dobhair in 2018.
For a number of the panel, this will be their seventh venture into the Ulster Club since 2013 and one man who has been watching closely in recent weeks is Northern Standard journalist Colm Shalvey and he definitely saw a side that didn’t see their season ending in Monaghan.
“I definitely got the sense that they were (trying to peak for Ulster),” he said.
“In a couple of the group games this year they definitely gave the sense that they were cruising, they were in second or third gear.
“I did think that they targeted Inniskeen in their final group game. Inniskeen have progressed a lot in the last couple of years and probably fancied themselves to give them a rattle.
“I think Scotstown wanted to deliver a message that day because they blew them away pretty much before half time and basically did the same again when they met in the semi-final.
“So it will be interesting to see how prepared they are for the Ulster series and how far they can actually go.”
Colin McAree’s side know that their path to the Seamus McFerran Cup is littered with ticking time-bombs.
Should they win their quarter-final next weekend a semi-final with Kilcoo or Ramor United awaits.
Any opposition they come up against will be looking closely at how they set up, particularly their use of the Hughes brothers, Darren and Kieran.
Shalvey said that the pair bring real versatility to the pitch, but that it’s reflected across the team, something that should bring a fluidity to their play.
“They haven’t changed anything major tactically this year, but they are versatile in how they can play.
“There is nothing stand-out tactically but Darren Hughes can play anywhere. Darren Hughes has mostly been playing at centre half-back but he has been turning up at full-forward fleetingly, he can play midfield at times, full-back. I imagine he will be at six for the Ulster Club.
“Paul Sherlock, Donal Morgan, Ryan O’Toole, they have a lot of players who can play in a lot of different positions. Kieran Hughes has been very good in midfield.
“They can kind of go with you any way you want. A lot of teams tried to set up defensively against them, Inniskeen tried it and found themselves blown out of the game after 10 or 15 minutes.
“Truagh didn’t go as defensively in the final but they’ve shown that they can beat you in a shoot-out and if you want to go defensive, they can break you down that way too.”
Scotstown’s progress to this year’s Monaghan final was as placid as it comes.
They won four games from four in the group with only Carrick getting anywhere near them before losing out by four points.
That secured a semi-final berth and a meeting with an in form Inniskeen, but the Grattan’s were simply blown away.
The final was a much tougher examination though with Conor McCarthy’s late goal making the 1-13 to 0-10 win over Truagh appear easier than it actually was. For Shalvey, it may have been exactly what they needed heading into Ulster.
“It’s kind of hard to get a handle on them because they went to the final without being tested.
“The final was the first game someone put it up to them but they look to me to be very strong this year, as strong as they have been probably since 2018 when they last got to an Ulster final.
“They blitzed their way to the final and Truagh were the only side to give them any sort of scare. I think that was exactly what they wanted in terms of getting a test.
“Even the semi-final, they were very comfortable and had it wrapped up 10 minutes into the second half.
“Truagh pushed them though, it was only in the last minute they got that goal because Truagh were pushing for the equalising goal.”
Scotstown’s last Ulster title came all the way back in 1989. Perhaps 2021 will be the year when the wait comes to an end.