In recent years, Donegal and Tyrone have invariably been the Ulster teams most fancied for a tilt at the All-Ireland Football Championship.   

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But former All-Ireland winner Martin McHugh believes that Monaghan now boast the strongest squad in Ulster.  

A late Conor McManus goal allowed Monaghan to squeeze past Cavan in Breffni Park yesterday. The game itself was an engrossing and relatively free-scoring affair, defying pre-match predictions of a defensive bore. 

Speaking on the RTÉ GAA podcast, McHugh argued that Monaghan are in an extremely good place and yet to do full justice to their talents.  

He said: "Well I think Monaghan are the best team in Ulster. I think they've the best squad in Ulster... They've definitely under-performed. I think there's a lot more in them. They've definitely got more quality on the bench now.

"They've got players like Conor McCarthy coming off the bench and making a difference. Darren Hughes is back and will be fit for the Down match in the semi-final." 

McHugh contends that the time has now come for Monaghan to start thinking about All-Ireland semi-finals and possibly beyond.

"Taking the squads of players in Ulster, people talk about Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan, and I think Monaghan have the best squad. I think this is the best squad they've had. This is their best chance. And I think they'll be disappointed if they don't at least get to a semi-final in the championship this year," he said.

Monaghan have won two Ulster championships during Malachy O'Rourke's reign in 2013 and 2015, though on neither occasion did they progress beyond the All-Ireland quarter-final. Provincial rivals Tyrone stymied them in Croke Park on both days.  

Monaghan's last appearance in an All-Ireland semi-final occurred back in the straight knockout days in 1988, where they were heavily beaten by Billy Morgan's Cork team.