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'At the final whistle I just closed the eyes and said, ‘What was I doing?''

Winning the four-in-a-row with Scotstown helped Rory Beggan recover from Monaghan’s All-Ireland semi-final exit to Tyrone.

FOR THE MAJORITY of high-level sportsmen, it’s the defeats rather than the victories that will stick with them. 

Rory Beggan dejected after the game Rory Beggan after Tyrone ended Monaghan's season. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

While Rory Beggan admits he took his game “onto a new level” in 2018, the All-Star nominee was frustrated with his decision-making late in Monaghan’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tyrone. 

In the 73rd minute, Beggan found himself in possession after venturing upfield as Monaghan chased an equaliser to force extra-time.

Rather than work the ball inside, Beggan miscued a shot at the posts. Seconds later, the final whistle brought an end to Monaghan’s campaign. 

“I suppose in the aftermath, I did think about it,” he says. “Obviously, it wasn’t the right decision. At the final whistle, I kind of knew that. I just sort of closed the eyes and go ‘what was I doing?’

Maybe it was a wee bit of rush of blood when I got up the field. Why was I up that far? I don’t know. But lookit, I felt that I took the wrong decision.

“When I really look back on the year, I played some good football I was happy with, but also I made some mistakes I wasn’t happy with. I suppose that keepers get a wee bit more scrutiny when they make a mistake. That’s why we’re there.

“We can deal with it. I felt I was happy enough with the year. I felt I took my game on to a new level, but I’d like to take it onto an even better level next year. That will come with a lot of hard work. We’ll finish this season first and then really focus on what has to come next season.”

AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championship Launch Scotstown and Monaghan goalkeeper, Rory Beggan at the launch of the AIB Camogie and Club Championships. This is AIB’s 28th year sponsoring the AIB GAA Football, Hurling and their 6th year sponsoring the Camogie Club Championships. Source: SPORTSFILE

After their semi-final exit, Beggan quickly refocused on club duties and before long he was celebrating Monaghan SFC success with Scotstown – their fourth title in as many seasons. 

“I regretted it for a couple of days but then, you can’t think for too long – I had club championship two weeks later and had to get the head right and focus on that.

“The club championship and winning it has taken the whole sort of bad feelings away from that game.”

Scotsotwn hadn’t won a county title in 20 years before Beggan’s crop came along and lifted the crown in 2013. Beggan believes a county final defeat in 2011 may have been a turning point for the club.

A lot of these players would have won medals when we were coming through (underage ranks). We took that wee bit of a winning mentality coming into the team. Also we changed our manager.

“We got to a county final in 2011 and we were beaten. Maybe that turned out to be a good thing. People say you have to lose a final to win one. Maybe that was the key. Mattie McGleenan came in in 2013 and changed the whole culture, discipline, mentality of the team.

“He stuck by his principals of attacking football. We’ve the players to play that game, we want to play attacking football in Scotstown. We were eating more or less out of the palm of his hand with what he wanted us to do. It was working.

“We won our first nine league games under him. Obviously, what he wanted to do with us was working and took it into the championship that year. We were beat actually in the first round, came through the back door and won the final convincingly in the end.

“We’ve won five out of the last six championships so it’s been a good couple of years. Hopefully it continues on.”

Darren Hughes raises the Mick Duffy Cup Scotstown's Darren Hughes raises the Mick Duffy Cup. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

With players of the calibre of Kieran Hughes, Darren Hughes and Conor McCarthy in their ranks, they’re expected to launch a serious assault on the Ulster title this winter.

“Winning four in a row comes with its own expectation and people will be expecting us to make a bigger dent in Ulster. We just needed to get that win and get the experience because the intensity levels and the atmosphere levels all go up a notch when you win in the Ulster club, it’s an unbelievable competition.

It’s a competition I love playing in. We probably needed that win just to get that confidence going into that Burren game, because they’ve three weeks to prepare for us, and they got a look at us last weekend. They’ll be tuned in, ready to go.

“(You have) different styles of teams. The weather as well, it’s always wet and windy and greasy and heavy and stuff like that. What makes it so special and so tough is every team doesn’t fear going into the Ulster club.

“The county championship celebrations are put to a back seat and every team going into it feels they can win it. We’re no different to any other team, we feel we’re good enough to win it. But Cargin up in Antrim will be saying the same, Gaoth Dobhair will be saying the same. Crossmaglen obviously will saying the same.

“It’s anyone’s game, and anyone can win it on their day, you could see last year, Cavan Gaels getting to the club final. Derrygonnelly were a kick away from being in it. On your day, if you’re playing well, you’ve a great chance of winning it.”

Jamie Clarke with Damien Mc Ardle Jamie Clarke helped Crossmaglen beat Scotstown in the 2015 Ulster final. Source: Presseye/Declan Roughan/INPHO

Scotstown reached the Ulster final in 2015, when they fell to an experienced Crossmaglen outfit. It’s a defeat that hasn’t left Beggan.

Both Hughes brothers were sent-off during extra-time, while Beggan uncharacteristically fluffed a kick-out to gift a goal to Kyle Carragher in the second additional period.

What is his abiding memory from that day?

“Regret,” he responds. “The boys outfield played the best they could, but I didn’t have my best game in a Scotstown jersey.

It’s something I’d look back on as a learning curve for the last couple of years anyway.”

Beggan and Dublin netminder Stephen Cluxton are arguably the two finest goalkeepers in the game and both men will duke it out for an All-Star between the posts next month. 

“It’s nice to be in the mix,” he says. “It’s not something you set out at the start of the year, you don’t set out to get an All-Star. You set out the best ‘keeper you can be for your team, and if that can help your team, that’s the main thing.

“If a nomination comes at the end of the year, so be it. But it’s nice to be nominated, especially beside the two boys who had serious seasons as well. If I don’t win it in two weeks’ time, so be it. I’m not going to obsess over it.

“It’s obviously a huge honour for yourself and your family and your club to win one. It would be great to win it in two weeks’ time. But at the end of the day, if you don’t you don’t.”

Rory Beggan and Conor McManus discuss a free Rory Beggan with county team-mate and fellow All-Star nominee Conor McManus. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The GAA’s proposed alteration to the kick-out rule would radically change the goalkeeping position and it’s not something Beggan is in favour of.

“I suppose it actually probably suits the goalkeeper a lot more but I’m just not in favour of it. I don’t understand. Are players going to rush back into their zones with a minute to go when they’re a point up?

“Are players going to go down cramping? Will there be a lot of time wasting? I don’t understand the rules or how it’s going to impact. I don’t think it’s going to impact high fielding either. It’s obviously going to hit a lot more spaces with kick-outs having to go out beyond the 45 but I don’t think they need to think about the kick-out.

I think teams are starting to adopt a longer kick-out now and I think the kick-out is a skill in itself and I don’t think that they need to change the kick-out rule. I understand they have to change stuff out the field but I don’t think they have to change the kick-out rules.

“I just don’t understand why they had to change the kick-out or change rules around the kick-out. The standard of goalkeeping has went up in Ireland over the last number of years. You can see keepers are so confident in where to hit it and I think it’s a skill in itself because you’re hitting a player 30 yards away on the chest.

“I don’t feel that kick-outs have to go 45 yards long anymore. I don’t understand. Like are we going to go back to breaking ball all the time now? Is it going to go back to lumping it down the field?

Rory Beggan Rory Beggan takes a free against Tyrone. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“But I think teams are going to be smart enough now to put two small fast players in the middle of the field and try and get them to take kick outs on the run.”

Beggan has enjoyed watching the goalkeeping position evolve over the years and feels more players will follow the example set by Laois stopper Graham Brody in venturing outfield with the ball.

“I think there’s a lot more goalkeepers doing it at club level. Too many keepers are doing it but there is obviously a line that you don’t cross in terms of goalkeeping. Your main job is to protect the goal.

Goalkeepers can play football too. A lot of intercounty goalkeepers play outfield for their clubs. It would not be any new territory for them to go up and kick a point.

“I think you’re going to see in the next year or two that some goalkeepers are going to start scoring. I think it is inevitable but I think it’s adventurous. I enjoyed watching Graham Brody this year. I think he single-handedly brought them back into the game against Wexford.

“When he did it they stuck him in at corner forward at one stage but if teams want to use it it’s an option. Keepers are never marked so give them the ball.

“I scored a point in a club game two years ago against Clontibret. Literally no one came to me so I just kept going and I got close enough so I just kicked it.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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