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United squad was Mone's motivation

Farney success fuelled by skill levels and continuity

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Dessie Mone insists that if you want to play well in the summer, the league is where you test yourself

Dessie Mone insists that if you want to play well in the summer, the league is where you test yourself

SPORTSFILE

Dessie Mone insists that if you want to play well in the summer, the league is where you test yourself

All good things must come to an end, but having soldiered with Monaghan for 16 seasons before hanging up his boots last November, there are a few common theories that Dessie Mone would like to challenge.

Having given unbroken service to the Farney men since 2004 - even traveling home from England every Thursday and heading back each Sunday when studying abroad in 2013 - Mone is taken aback by the recent spate of inter-county drop-outs.

The 35-year-old recalls an overnight stay in Dublin nine years ago when sorrows were drowned after an early qualifier exit to Offaly that helped to change the Monaghan mentality.

Mone remembers a "massive conversation" with 'Mansy' (Conor McManus), Dick Clerkin and Vinny Corey about the direction Monaghan were taking and how they agreed that they must "stick together and give this a chance".

Remarkable

What followed over the remainder of the decade was quite remarkable as seven years under Malachy O'Rourke yielded successive League promotions (2013 and '14) and a pair of Ulster SFC titles ('13 and '15).

Those triumphs were underpinned by a squad which rarely saw any departing faces - barring retirements - with Mone believing that such continuity is imperative to success.

"I've always found within the Monaghan squad that if people could give their time, they would. The lads have been consistently there over the past decade and that has been key to it," said Mone.

"The key was lads sticking together and even if we didn't go well one year, we held that Division 1 status. A lot of lads are giving out about travelling but if you enjoy it, do it. It's a great opportunity to play for your county.

"I don't understand playing for a year and then giving up for a year and then playing for another year. Lads would enjoy it far more, get a lot more out of it and probably see more success if they just gave that consistent few years to their county.

"I would definitely encourage any young lad if they're going down the inter-county route just to stick at it."

Monaghan have retained top-flight status in the League for the past five seasons, with many feeling that their resources have been exhausted.

Such a notion irks the Largy College PE teacher, who welcomes the long-term benefits which Division 1 football bring and feels that their talent is often understated.

"Young kids see us in Division 1 and you can see now the lads coming through watching us being competitive. If you want to play later in the summer, the League is where you continuously test yourself against those best teams and show that you can do it in championship," he says.

"It was often said that Monaghan are a hard-working team and they'll give everything, but they never mentioned that they were a skilful team.

"It was all about hard work but it never really bothered us and more spurred us on. We knew we had lads that wanted to play for the Monaghan jersey and skilful players. It wasn't just about hard work."

While many inter-county careers are written off once they hit the 30 mark, the Clontibret defender sees no reason why more players cannot continue for longer and he aligns his longevity with the advancements made in sports science.

"More lads are educated now. A decade ago lads were coming back from the winter unfit and that was doing them more damage. Lads are being smarter now, they go back in fit and ready to train," he says.

Decisions

"That's the way I always approached it, make the right decisions on and off the pitch. You've all that hard graft done over the years, you just train smart then. You don't have to kill yourself every time you go to train, all you need is to maintain your body conditioning and top it up."

Mone admits that it's a "massive change" not to have his gear bag in hand heading into Clones, but he has been impressed with what he's watched so far in the second coming of Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney.

He was happy to depart and "let youth have their fling as it's time for other lads to step up within the squad" with Aaron Mulligan - a sweet left-footer who reminds him of Farney legend Paul Finlay - and recent Sigerson Cup winner Mícheál Bannigan two who have already caught his eye in the opening rounds.