by Daragh Small
Monaghan defender Karl O'Connell said he beams with pride every time he lines out for the Farney men so getting to an All-Ireland semi-final is a big deal.
Monaghan make the journey back to Croke Park on Sunday for a final four clash with Ulster rivals Tyrone as they bid to end an 88-year wait for an All-Ireland appearance.
Malachy O'Rourke's men have already defeated Tyrone in the league and championship this year, while they topped Group 1 of the Super 8s last Saturday after a stunning 0-16 to 0-8 win over Connacht champions Galway.
The 29-year-old Tyholland clubman gave another brilliant display from wing-back at Pearse Stadium in Salthill, but he says it's just a joy to be involved with his native county on this stage.
"I've always said it, it's a big thing playing for Monaghan. I don't care what it is, if it's a McKenna Cup, if it's a challenge game, always take pride in pulling on the Monaghan jersey because there's a lot of good players that have represented this jersey in the past," said O'Connell.
"At the end of the day it goes back your club and your family, that win is just as important as much as my club and my family and friends.
"Form is...it's just nice to be playing and I love playing for Monaghan and I'll try and play as long as I can. Very happy with how everything is going."
Monaghan were dumped out of the Ulster championship semi-finals after a shock 1-8 to 0-10 defeat at the hands of Fermanagh but they bounced back in the qualifiers.
Victories followed against Waterford, Leitrim and Laois and now with wins against Kildare and Galway, Monaghan have avoided reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.
"At the start of the year getting to the Super 8s was our plan, when we got there it was the plan to top the group. We want to be going in with a winning mentality, when you win games it's an unbelievable thing that you have in your brain, the mentality," said O'Connell.
"That's what it's all about. It doesn't matter who you're going to get in the next round, it's going to be a top team, it's going to be a semi-final. Within a week you're in an All-Ireland final, it's going to be tough, simple as.
"You're taking physicality, mentality, fitness, everything. It's going to be so gruesome and the way Croke Park is, it's so fast, so quick, you're going to need to be on top terms so it's all about recovery. We'll get that done.
"We knew within the squad that the Fermanagh game was a mishap. That happens, you win games, you lose games, it's all about bouncing back.
"We got back to where we wanted to be, very unfortunate not to get to an Ulster final but Ulster finals are long gone and over, it's the business end of the year and we're very happy to be here.
"The next few weeks is going to be great, we'll enjoy it as much as we have all year and we'll take any team that comes, we're looking forward to it."Tweet