Monaghan get the defence of their Ulster crown under way this weekend against Down and star forward Conor McManus says the biggest pressure they face is from within.

Malachy O’Rourke’s side are hot favourites to see off the challenge of struggling Down in Clones (live coverage one RTÉ at 2pm, live match tracker on RTÉ.ie) and book a semi-final date with Donegal or Fermanagh on 25 June.

The Farney men are bidding for a third title in four years and with Down losing all seven games in their drop to Division 2, the Mournemen are tipped by most for the qualifier route.

"There has been expectations in the county since we made the breakthrough in 2013. That comes with the territory"

RTÉ GAA pundit Tómás Ó Sé believes Down lack the "players and confidence" to dethrone the reigning champions and Monaghan captain Conor McManus says the favourites tag is something they have become more accustomed to in recent times.

"There has been expectations in the county since we made the breakthrough in 2013. That comes with the territory," the two-time All Star told RTÉ Sport.

"Within the group we put pressure on ourselves to perform, not to win games, but to perform.

"We know if we perform we have a chance.

"We’re in good shape...It’s just about taking it on to the field on Sunday."

The closest Down came to a victory in Division 1 was their two-point defeat to their Ulster rivals in Clones and despite finished six points clear in the table, O'Rourke says there was little between the sides and is expecting a big challenge on Sunday.

"We know that Down are coming under the radar and there is very little difference between our League performances and Down," he said.

"There was very little between us when we played and both of us could have been relegated on the last day, we were lucky enough to stay up.

"It’s very much a 50/50 game and there is no script written for it."