Byline: By DANIEL McDONNELL
LAST WEEKEND wasn't a particularly pleasant one for the players of Monaghan United after their Oriel Park horror show on the Thursday night.
They hadn't earned the opportunity to relax after a 4-0 defeat which was a bolt from the blue for manager Mick Cooke and his staff after his young side had started the season impressively.
Already, they had beaten Cobh - one of the pre-season favourites - and drawn with Galway United.
Limerick only edged them out by a single goal while before their trip to face local rivals Dundalk, the Mons had earned a point from the visit of table toppers Shamrock Rovers.
They travelled to County Louth with high hopes but they were three goals down within 14 minutes. Cooke believes it may just have been one of those things that happens when you're building a team.
"I was unhappy with the performance because we fell below the level that we'd met in the previous couple of games which was obviously frustrating.
"I'm not making excuses because we deserved what we got, but maybe we just didn't settle into the game at all on the astro (turf) pitch. But we've all got legs and we're well able to run around," said Cooke.
"It's a blip and you get those, in a 36-game season you'll get a few but we've got Athlone now and we need the three points to bounce back from our first really bad performance.
"Against Rovers we competed, and it gave us great hope because we weren't outclassed at all against a team expected to be right up there.
"That's why what happened against Dundalk was the last thing we expected to happen.
"But we had the squad back together training on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and the reaction was brilliant, so we're putting it behind us now."
It's the kind of teething problem that Cooke expects with a youthful side, most of whom are under the age of 21.
The Mons aren't promotion contenders, a top half finish the height of their ambition.
Instead, they're focused on developing a young side that will be better for the experience next year. Their vision is a long-term one.
"The club has to start somewhere. We sat down with the chairman at the end of last season and decided we had to have a very young squad this year. That was the plan," explained Cooke.
"It was the decision to make, I knew that the wage bill would be small because we have to concentrate our finances elsewhere for the moment. …