Conor McManus is one of those players that you would pay the entrance fee alone just to watch him play football. He is a class act on and off the field. There are numerous reasons why Conor excels in our game but one of the most important reasons is that he is a thinking man’s forward. What I mean by that is he is constantly thinking of ways that he can improve, how he can dominate his opponent and find the edge. He is a very smart forward. He is so dangerous inside that almost any type of ball in is a good ball but he is a player that consistently wants to be on the ball so if there is a period of time when the ball does not find its way into him, he will go looking for it. He takes responsibility but key to him taking responsibility in search of the ball, he is still always in the danger zone. He is always in a position where he can hurt his opponent. His ability to kick long range points is up there with the best of them. His kicking is so thorough and precise that he very rarely drops a kick short. We all know by now of the new rules in place and we all know that they are not going to be implemented for the championship this year so is this enough reason not to use them to your advantage. I don’t think so. Finding that edge is all that matters and smart footballers will adapt to any rules. The mark was made for players like Conor. He has excelled using it in the past for Ireland in the International rules and he excelled using it again at the weekend when brought on as a second half substitute against Dublin. He found himself in nice pockets of space, good ball was delivered in and he used the rule to his advantage. In fact, not many other teams utilised that rule and the impact that it could have on results to the effect that Monaghan did. After making the mark, it comes down to score taking ability and Conor simply has it. The transformation that he made when introduced was immense and alongside debutant Stephen O’Hanlon, they will cause many defences headaches over this league campaign because they look for that edge and they pounce on it.
Closer to home, Down got off to a disappointing start to their campaign and from being in a very strong position of a five-point lead early in the second half, to losing by six points would be a serious cause for concern for all Down supporters. An eleven-point swing around with home advantage is concerning but they have a great change to make amends this Sunday against Sligo after they were on the receiving end of a heavy defeat also. Armagh picked up a valuable point against a fancied Kildare team but like Down, they let a five-point advantage slip and to compete in Division two and to have promotion ambitions, you must see games like that out particularly from such a strong position but one point on the board on your travels is indeed valuable. This Sunday Armagh play in Pairc Esler against Clare and it will be one tough battle as it always is against Clare but I would expect Armagh’s stronger firepower and options up front to be the difference.