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'Banty's Babes' Against The Might Of The Kingdom: A Truly Enthralling Minor Semi-final

'Banty's Babes' Against The Might Of The Kingdom: A Truly Enthralling Minor Semi-final

If Saturday evening's post-match scenes in Salthill captured the excitement surrounding Monaghan football, there is no telling what will happen if Sunday's pair of games fall in the county's favour.

While the seniors will take on Tyrone for a place in Monaghan's first All-Ireland final since 1930, the county's minors will be looking to end a slightly more respectable drought of 79 years.

Standing in their way of a place in the Electric Ireland Minor Football Final is Kerry; in the hunt for their fifth successive All-Ireland triumph. Although few may have the temerity to expect a Monaghan win, expectations scarcely appear to hold much sway in what has been a year of breakthroughs for the county.

Monaghan

Laying claim to only their third Ulster title in 73-years, Monaghan's journey to this All-Ireland semi-final spot has been one of quiet consistency.

Faced with a gruelling provincial championship, they suffered an early defeat to last year's All-Ireland finalists Derry that would only serve to make any chance of Ulster success a tougher prospect still. Yet, 'Banty's Babes' as they are known up in Monaghan thanks to their legendary manager Seamus 'Banty' McAneney, would have their revenge.

Beating Antrim, Donegal, Down and Cavan thereafter, such results were made all the more impressive given that not one game took place in Clones. When Derry re-emerged as Monaghan's opponent in the Ulster final, the team that had lost by a solitary point back in April were ready to make amends.

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Winning on a scoreline of 1-9 to 0-9, they had kept the reigning provincial winners to a relatively paltry tally. Equipped with the necessary fire-power to capitalise upon this meanness in defence, Monaghan's success in the All-Ireland series was going to depend on what their talisman Aaron Mulligan could muster up.

Monaghan

Scoring 0-5 of Monaghan's 1-9 in the Ulster final win, Mulligan has played a pivotal role in his side's journey to this point. Capable of demonstrating tremendous composure in the tightest of games, his scores against Derry tended to arrive when his team were in need of a calming respite.

Against a ragged-looking Kildare side in the All-Ireland quarter-final, Mulligan's 1-3 probably didn't do adequate justice to the effect he had on proceedings once again.

Grabbing the goal that all but ended any hope the Leinster final runners-up had of mounting a serious challenge, Kerry will have their work cut out trying to keep him contained for 60 minutes.

Monaghan

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Kerry, though, will know they can cause their semi-final opponents plenty of trouble on their own.

Dublin's counterpart in the Electric Ireland Minor Football Championship, Kerry's sustained brilliance leads one to wonder whether, sooner or later, these incredibly talented young men may one day exact a similar hold over senior football.

Overwhelming winners against Derry in last year's final, many of the star names from that team have already made the transition to the senior panel. Yet, even without someone of David Clifford's astonishing ability, Kerry's route to this minor semi-final has been largely trouble-free.

With the exception of their one-point victory against Cork in the Munster semi-final, Kerry have blown Tipperary, Clare and Roscommon out of the water. Although the lurking potential of complacency is something to be combated, it is unlikely that this new crop of players will feel all that entitled by the successes of their predecessors.

The Electric Ireland Man Of The Match in Kerry's 2-16 to 2-7 defeat of Roscommon in the All-Ireland quarter-final, Paul Walsh is one of a number of promising young forwards the county has to offer.

Scoring 0-5 in the Gaelic Grounds that day, his 1-7 in the Munster final defeat of Clare demonstrates just how ruthless he can be.

Yet, of equal importance to what he contributes to the score-sheet is his fearlessness with the ball in hand. Against Roscommon, Walsh was a constant outlet; making intelligent, and incredibly frustrating (for Kerry's opponents, thankfully) runs that opened things up to his side's liking.

With so many capable scorers around him, keeping tabs on Walsh will be high up Monaghan's list of priorities.

Whether or not that is possible, only Sunday's game will tell.

Arthur James O'Dea

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