Jim Gavin and Malachy O’Rourke are two of the longer-serving football managers on the inter-county circuit.

Both of them have been in charge since before the start of the 2013 season and both of them have proven themselves to be shrewd football thinkers.

With Dublin Gavin has landed four of the five available All-Ireland titles as well as a bagful of Leagues and Leinsters and he has built a team that ranks with the very greatest.

Against that, Monaghan boss O’Rourke has two Ulster crowns from his first year and 2015, along with League honours in Division 3 and 2, in ’13 and ’14 respectively.

The difference may seem stark, but make no mistake - O’Rouke’s achievements with the Farney County are every bit as impressive as Gavin’s in Dublin.

Monaghan is the county with the fourth smallest population in the country and according to the 2011 census there are 60,483 warm bodies within its bounds. That puts it ahead of only Carlow, Leitrim and Cavan, and ranked alongside similarly sized Roscommon and Sligo.

Yet Monaghan have been able to survive and even prosper at the rarified altitude of football’s top tier - Division 1 of the Allianz League. Kevin McStay has done a fine job with Roscommon, winning a Connacht title against the head and enjoying a short stay in the top flight, but O’Rourke is in a different class.

Malachy O'Rourke after Monaghan's 2013 Ulster title

"Mal's strengths, and he has many, are his motivational skills with all players," said Fermanagh's Ryan McCluskey, who played in that Ulster final ten years ago.

"Over the past years he has really developed an eye for talent and he was great at getting key match-ups right with us which was the springboard to nullifing opposition.

"He is a natural-born, driven leader and that is infectious to all," added McCluskey, who is the longest-serving outfield inter-county player in action this year, and who is set to open his own sports recovery business in Enniskillen - Focus Recovery.

In 2008 O’Rourke took his native Fermanagh to the Ulster final, and within a kick of the ball of beating Armagh before losing in a replay, for just the second time in 63 years.

He landed senior titles in Tyrone with Errigal Ciaran, with Cavan Gaels in Cavan and the Loup in Derry, where he also added an Ulster club crown.

As well as dragging Monaghan from Division 3 to Division 1 in consecutive seasons he landed an Ulster title at the first time of asking, beating defending All-Ireland champions Donegal on an emotional day in Clones. They followed that up with another Anglo Celt Cup in 2015.

All that’s missing from this CV is a big win in Croke Park, having never led a county team past the All-Ireland quarter-final stage.

Monaghan have one of the best managers around, but there are two other strands that tie together to ensure that they have punched above their weight in recent years.

Rising star Conor McCarthy

On the field they have outstanding individuals - think Conor McManus, Darren and Kieran Hughes and rising star Conor McCarthy - and off it they have the physical infrastructure in place.

Ten years ago Monaghan GAA opened the doors on their state-of-the-art centre of excellence in Cloghan situated between the football hotbeds of Carrickmacross and Castleblaney.

They have three full-time football coaches, including goalkeeper Rory Beggan, as well as a full-time hurling coach, and there is a clear pathway for talented, ambitious youngsters to make it through from an Under-14 development squad all the way to senior.

"We are reaping the rewards of a lot of the work that was done years ago," said Monaghan GAA Secretary, Francis Ward, speaking to RTÉ Sport.

"Before we had Cloghan we were going from club-to-club asking to use their pitch for training. Now we have a centralised hub with six all-weather, floodlit pitches with gym, meeting rooms and everything else required."

Monaghan beat Kildare in the League

On Saturday Monaghan could ensure their Division 1 status for another season, and give themselves a shot at making the final, with a win over Tyrone in Castleblaney. So far they have two wins from three outings, beating Kildare and Kerry following an opening-day loss to Mayo. Beating the Kingdom used to be a once-in-a-generation kind of thing for footballers from the county, now it is almost routine.

The feel-good factor in the county is such that their main jersey sponsor Investec, a multinational whose Irish arm is headed up by Monaghan man Michael Cullen, stepped aside for several games of the League.

This allowed smaller local businesses who have supported Monaghan GAA in the background, Monaghan Mushrooms, Combilift and Celtic Pure, to appear on the jersey and have their day in the sun.