Any Bite Left In The Orchard County?
Monaghan v Armagh
It’s just as well Luis Suarez isn’t a gaelic footballer, because if the aggression brought by Chiellini saw him revert to using his choppers for a quick nibble, then the intensity of this game would see him gnashing like a manic dog.
Armagh’s last championship scrap didn’t even make it to throw-in before there were casualties of war; Cavan scorer-in-chief Martin Dunne got chewed up and spit out before the band had played the anthem. Rumours that Conor McManus will only take to the field after throw-in are surely exaggerated.
In the dental-phobic arena of the world cup, Suarez faces a two year ban for his Italian taste and effectively ends Uruguayan hopes; the one-match ban given to Andy Mallon, Brendan Donaghy and Kieran Toner after a real set-to leaves the Orchard ripe for a Farney picking.
Mallon and Donaghy are two important defenders for Armagh, while Toner must be replaced at midfield. On the plus side, Paul Grimley and, one would imagine, especially Kieran McGeeney, will use this perceived injustice to further galvanise the Armagh troops. Not that this group of Armagh footballers will need any extra motivation to perform on Saturday.
If the carrot of reaching their first Ulster final since 2008 isn’t enough, they also have the memory of their ten-point hammering at home to Monaghan in the league to set right. Armagh fell 0-09 to 0-00 down in that game before getting back within one. However, Monaghan re-asserted their dominance in the home straight.
The danger for Monaghan is complacency. Slaps on the back have a way of knocking the hunger out of the belly. While the appetite to get that elusive win over Tyrone was obvious, O’Rourke has to find a different angle to get the Farney going this weekend. This side have done so much for their county. Last year’s historic Ulster win has been backed up with the division 2 title and the removal of the Tyrone monkey off their backs.
Malachy O’Rourke, while delighted with the win, will have addressed the fact that they let Tyrone back in to a game Monaghan were 5-6 points the better team in. He’ll be emphasising the importance of putting teams to the sword so
…if Monaghan get a run on Armagh then they’ll be focussed on kicking on.
Dessie Mone, Drew Wylie and Colin Walshe are defenders in great form for Monaghan. The potential match up of Walshe and Jamie Clarke is one to savour. While Clarke was well below his own high standards the last day, he’s the type of player who can produce on the big day. He’ll need to for Armagh to win here. Another Cross legend, Aaron Kernan, hit 0-3 despite only being introduced in the second half. He should start on Saturday.
Armagh saw off Cavan by 1-12 to 0-9, a score-line that was lost in the pre-match brawl write-ups. They focused on packing the defence and breaking at speed; Monaghan are well set-up to meet that tactic head on. Clones gives Monaghan home comfort again and with O’Rourke tactically ready and Ciaran McManus with a game under his belt, Monaghan can weather the Orange storm and win through.
With both sides hitting 1-12 in their last games, go under on the points total.
Suarez? This game will have plenty of bite without him. The following markets are where I’ll be putting my money on; Monaghan to win by 1-3 points at 11/4 and Under 35 points at 10/11.