Rory Beggan is back for Monaghan but faces fight for number one spot

The veteran goalkeeper has returned from the US but, given Darren McDonnell’s performances, he is not guaranteed to get his starting place back

On the night that Monaghan beat Dublin at Croke Park to begin their National Football League, manager Vinny Corey talked about his grand plan for spring.

“I see us using the league to blood a ‘keeper,” said Corey, explaining that with Rory Beggan away chasing his NFL dream, they would invest heavily in debutant Darren McDonnell. “We haven’t done that probably ever. Like, Rory was going for 125 appearances in a row or something like that, if something happened to Rory Beggan in a championship match, where were we going?

“It was the one position we didn’t build competition for. We’re doing that now. I’m hoping that will stand to us down the line when Rory comes to his senses and doesn’t go anywhere!”

Almost 10 weeks later, and days out from Sunday’s Ulster SFC opener against Cavan, Corey is in a curious position.


Eventually relegated from Division One after following up the win over Dublin with six consecutive defeats, Monaghan did at least blood McDonnell as Corey hoped. The Clontibret man started all seven league games but his championship debut may now have to be parked due to Beggan’s apparent availability.

The former All Star, who could yet be snapped up as an NFL kicker if interest materialises following trials, returned from the US last week and has trained with Monaghan. A little like how Stephen Cluxton relieved David O’Hanlon of Dublin’s number one jersey last year, it would be a surprise if Beggan doesn’t do the same.

Speaking at the launch of the Ulster SFC, a couple of days before Beggan returned from America, Corey acknowledged that it is a unique situation Monaghan find themselves in.

“Darren is the only other ‘keeper who has played National League for Monaghan in the last 10 years,” said Corey. “Division One is a tough place to start and he has done as well as can be expected and he has improved in each game. It is a high-pressure position to be coming into at the best of times, never mind trying to come in after Rory Beggan.

“We are happy with the enthusiasm and positivity that Darren has shown, even though there would be learning points in it for him, but he has always bounced back and kept coming. As far as we are concerned, Darren is in there and it is his position at the minute.”

Corey agreed with the suggestion that it has been a baptism of fire for McDonnell, who was thrown in at the very deep end.

“It’s probably an unrealistic leap to get right into that top three goalkeepers that can take the kick-outs and be involved in the play, so that’s probably an unrealistic leap for someone who has never played county before,” said Corey.

“For a new ‘keeper like Darren to aspire to that, and get there maybe after year two or three, is something he can try to improve game on game and learn it. But you are talking about a player who has never had any exposure at county level, to suddenly do all that Niall Morgan does or Rory Beggan does, it is probably unrealistic.”

Beggan appears to have timed his return just as the gang are getting back together. Conor McCarthy and Conor McManus are only just back playing regularly too, while Corey didn’t rule out Stephen O’Hanlon and Michael Hamill, both excellent in that win over Dublin, being fit again.

If McManus alone can make it, Monaghan will feel they are in with a decent shout of conjuring something special in attack. He came on as a sub in round five of the league against Galway, started against Tyrone and didn’t feature in the final round against Mayo.

“He played well against Tyrone, he had six points in that game,” said Corey of his evergreen former playing colleague. “When you get to that stage where you have played 18 seasons, it is just a matter of the niggling doubt, ‘Can I still do it at this level?’ Once he realised in that game that he could, he got as much out of the league as anyone else did.”

On Cavan’s challenge, Corey shrugged. Monaghan are favourites naturally enough, but they’ll both be Division Two teams in 2025.

“The last few times we played them in the championship they beat us,” said Corey. “They probably had a better league campaign than we had as well. It’s going to be a difficult game, local derbies always are.”