Conor McManus: Defeat to Longford brought us right back to square one

Monaghan endured a tough time in the qualifiers after being beaten in the semi-final of the Ulster Championship last year

Conor McManus, Monaghan, Croke Park

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer 

Monaghan's tilt at a back-to-back Ulster championships for the first time since 1930 came to a shuddering halt at the hands of Donegal.

Having beaten them to claim the title in 2015, only their second in just over 25 years, they crashed out during their semi-final replay. Beaten by a point, they felt they at least had the measure of one of Ulster's stronger sides. By extension, the qualifiers should pose little difficulty.

Here, they met resistance from Longford who produced the shock of the round to run out three-points winners. 

"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," McManus told GAA.ie. "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.

"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."

Conor McManus was relied upon heavily for scores during Monaghan's two games against Donegal in the Ulster Championship last year. Image: ©INPHO/Andrew Paton 

The focus now switches to preseason competitions like the McKenna Cup and a look ahead to their Division 1 campaign where they will meet fellow Ulster sides Donegal, Tyrone and Cavan. 

"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."