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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019
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Regrets from 2018, Beggan's brilliance in goal and Monaghan being written off

Conor McManus looks back at 2018 and looks ahead to 2019.

Conor McManus has won All-Stars in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
Conor McManus has won All-Stars in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A REWARD AGAIN for his individual excellence and a part of a collective breakthrough that his Monaghan camp had yearned for.

Conor McManus picked up his third All-Star award last month after his attacking endeavours this year. He was part of a side that smashed through a barrier to land a coveted All-Ireland semi-final spot.

There was some memorable experiences like his individual showing when Kerry came to Clones in July and the joy as their county’s fans spilled onto pitch in Salthill six days later.

Yet when Conor McManus scans his eye back over the 2018 season, it is the low notes that are pressed into view.

The late knockout blow Fermanagh delivered in early June in Healy Park. Tyrone at the heart of another disappointment in Croke Park in August.

“The two things that stick out are not being in an Ulster final and not been in an All-Ireland final,” said McManus, speaking in Philadelphia on the 2018 PWC All-Stars tour.

“That’s ultimately what you see when you look back on the year. We had chances to be in both finals but we were in neither of them. But there were a lot of positives as well because the Super 8s went well for us and and we probably played our best football under Malachy for the past six years last year and you could see signs of improvement as we went throughout the year.

“Made a big start to the championship but didn’t perform against Fermanagh. Got things up and running again and got within a kick of a ball of an All-Ireland final. So from that point of view it was a decent year but regret is the overriding feeling about the year. I’d say if you were to ask any footballer about the year that’s the way they would feel – apart from the Dubs obviously.”

Monaghan supporters celebrate winning Victory over Galway propelled Monaghan into an All-Ireland semi-final this year. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

McManus is mindful of their capacity to keep rebounding and competing. He’s been aware of the epitaphs written at the close of campaigns for Monaghan teams.

“We have been listening to that for the past ten years.Monaghan were finished when Banty left and we are still standing. As a group and as a team we feel we can improve and if we do that we will be there or thereabouts.

“Everybody is telling you when you are talking to them or meet them take the next step and get to the All-Ireland final. If it was only as simple as that we would have done it long away.

“The big thing is to be involved in the Super 8s that the key to anybody’s year and we need to get back there by hook or by crook in order to have a chance to kick on.

“That’s where the year is. There are two separate seasons now – there is a provincial championship and you
have the Super 8s and if you are there it’s game on.”

When Monaghan got to the Super 8s this year, their goalkeeper stepped forward to illuminate the stage. Rory Beggan’s exploits helped him wind up the year with a personal accolade that sparked a heated debate as he was chosen instead of Stephen Cluxton.

McManus is well placed to judge their merits.

“I said this before we will look back on Gaelic football in 20 years’ time and look on Stephen Cluxton having changed the game and probably the best goalkeeper of all time. What Rory is doing now is that he is bringing that on a wee bit further.

“I don’t believe there was an argument in in this year. I think Rory was the best goalkeeper in the country this year. Stephen Cluxton will go down as the best ever but this year there was no argument about it (the All Star).”

This afternoon in Omagh, Beggan will be a central figure as Scotstown bid to land the biggest prize in Ulster club football. His ability with the boot and his rate of improvement since first joining the squad has left McManus enthused.

Rory Beggan Rory Beggan won his first All-Star award in 2018. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I don’t know what he’s at there must be weight in them boots he wears. Just to watch him is amazing, two steps back and he hits the ball 65 yards.

“It just has not happened overnight, since he came in in 2013 to us, the difference between then and now is like day and night. It did not just happen, Rory has worked damn hard, at the end of every session, he is there with myself and a few others practicing and stays at that as long as anyone.”

As McManus starts to plot and plan for 2019, a change in direction off the pitch is something he hopes will benefit his performances.

“It’s Sherry Fitzgerald. I own the business. I was working in property services above in Dublin with MCR. I was with them for three years. That’s what I’m qualified in – I did a degree in building surveillance in college. The business is in Monaghan town.

“It was a route for getting back and settling at home in Monaghan and minimized the journey to training which was a bit factor in it by to honest. I was above living in Dublin. Just up and down the road all the time for training.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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