Lennon captained Monaghan during their Ulster final success. Sportsfile

‘We knew there was serious potential within ourselves’ – Lennon revels in Monaghan’s success

The 32-year-old says he “didn’t even dream” of lifting the Ulster title.

FEW PEOPLE GAVE Monaghan a chance ahead of last month’s Ulster final against Donegal, however team captain Eoin Lennon insists the belief was always there, despite many critics dismissing their chances, especially in light of some unconvincing displays in previous rounds.

“To be honest, we weren’t that happy with our performances either,” he says.  “For a neutral spectator who watched us, I could understand why they would have thought that Monaghan had no hope.

“But we knew there was serious potential within ourselves. We knew we were playing within ourselves. I suppose that showed on Sunday. A few boys just threw off the shackles. They really went out and attacked Donegal… Inside, I always thought that one day it would all come together for us. Thankfully, it did on the right day.”

The critics weren’t the only ones who had their reservations about the Monaghan team. Even the county’s most ardent supporters would have been less-than-confident over the prospect of beating Donegal.

“I suppose with the good weather some of [the fans] went to get out of the house. Instead of going to the beach they went down to Clones. When you are in the Ulster final, you have to believe that you can win it. We went down there and we said to ourselves: ‘What is the worst thing can happen?’ We will lose another match?”

The win was followed by jubilant celebrations on July 22, as three Monaghan football teams (ladies, minors and seniors) toured the cup around the five towns: Castleblayney, Carrickmacross, Ballybay, Clones and Monaghan.

“It was just a greet feeling to meet all the supporters,” the 32-year-old recalls. “There were thousands of people to welcome us into the towns.

“It was just a special feeling. That is what it is all about. We would just like to thank the supporters for that. It felt like a 16th man on Sunday. There were so many people there. And looking out on the pitch after the final whistle, it was just like an All-Ireland to us. It was surreal.”

And one of the primary reasons for their triumph over Donegal was their superb start to the game – a period which Lennon reveals his team had specifically focused on prior to the game.

“That was the period that we really targeted – the first 15 minutes. It was important for us to get ahead because it meant that Donegal had to come out and play a wee bit more. We got ahead in the first 15 minutes, then we just built on from there.”

The victory was extra sweet for Lennon, given that he had already experienced losing two Ulster finals since making his debut in 2002 – and he admits he could barely believe it was happening at the time.

“There were a few things. There was the moment when the whistle went and the crowd came mobbing onto the pitch. I never had a feeling like that before. Then lifting the cup and looking down and seeing so many people. I didn’t even dream of that. I didn’t even think of that. It was just unbelievable.

“Just to see the emotion on people’s faces. There were people at the match who normally don’t go to matches. And there were people in tears.”

While their victory over Donegal will undoubtedly live long in the memory for Lennon, the Cavan-based PE teacher acknowledges that there is still much work to be done and emphasises that they can’t afford to get complacent as a result of their success.

“To be honest, yesterday was our last day of celebrations. We are back to training tomorrow night.

“We will just put the head down. We will not be talking about winning All-Irelands. We will look at the next match, see who we will be playing, and we will target that. That is all we have done all year, right through the League and Championship.”

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