Conor McManus: 'We've a lot of work to do'
By Cian O'Connell
Conor McManus hopes to return to action for Monaghan in the Dr McKenna Cup ahead of the Allianz Football League.
Monaghan face Mayo at Elverys MacHale Park in an attractive Division One opener on February 4. "Ideally, I think, I'd get some of the McKenna Cup in," classy Clontibret attacker McManus, who has been resting a hip problem, said.
"I'm going to go back onto the field this week and see how it reacts, but it's going in the right direction so if I could it would be great to get a bit of game time under my belt before we play the first game against Mayo. So I'll see how that progresses.
"I have to take a bit of time at the end of every year to tidy things up with the hip and that. I’m certainly making progress and hopefully I’ll get back on the pitch in the next week or so. That’s the plan anyway."
Malachy O'Rourke's team are keen to bounce back following a disappointing 2016 All Ireland Football Championship which included defeats against Donegal and Longford. "I think after last year we can't really think about anything else, only within Ulster and the first game," is McManus' assessment.
"It was a disappointing end to our season last year, the defeat to Longford, and I think that has brought us right back to square one. We really just have to focus on working hard and getting results.
"I said it before, when you're coming out of Ulster you can't afford to look at quarter-finals or semi-finals in the All-Ireland series, because it's so difficult to get out of Ulster.
"And I think if last year taught us anything it's that it is so hard to get back to Croke Park in August.
"It's probably one of the lessons that we'd have learned, probably more so than ever, is how difficult it is to get back here in August, so we've got a lot of work to do.
"We're looking forward to the National League and to the challenge that will bring in getting us ready for the Championship because we have a tough game in the first round.
"If we needed any reminding of that we got it last Sunday in the McKenna Cup, so it's very much a game by game basis for us."
The Longford loss hasn't been discussed by the Monaghan panel. "No, we never really looked to much at it, to be honest," McManus remarked.
"When you get a defeat like that, that's the end of your year and everyone just goes their own way back to their clubs and wherever else. The boys came back in in November-December to get training, that's the focus in the mind at that stage to be honest, it's just about getting back, getting football into the legs and working as hard as you can in preparation for the new year.
"Maybe there will come a time down the line when maybe we will look back and see, but it's very much about taking this year on its own merits and taking it step by step, trying to become a better team.
"Obviously we tried to do that last year and we came up short, so we've a lot of work to do."