The Farney men take on Fermanagh in Clones tomorrow evening in their Championship opener, and while O’Rourke still has “an emotional attachment” to his home county remains, he’s only interested in Monaghan’s fortunes.
“The fact I grew up in Fermanagh, I played underage and senior football with Fermanagh and managed Fermanagh, have family still up in Fermanagh and so on… obviously, there is still an emotional attachment there,” he said.
“But it gets easier over the years, this is my fifth year with Monaghan and the fact the players give such a commitment, you are so much involved there.
“Now, there is an emotional attachment there (in Monaghan), too. At this stage it’s just like business and you try to do your best for Monaghan.”
The Farney men have some injuries worries going into the game. Darren Hughes is out with knee trouble while there are concerns over Gavin Doogan, who put in a good League campaign, Dessie Mone and Tommy Kerr.
Despite the injuries, Monaghan go into the game as short as 1/8 to win their opening Ulster tie, but O’Rourke insists that the bitter memory of last year’s shock qualifier exit to Longford will keep their minds focused.
“We were just disappointed with the way we played against Donegal (last year), we could have won both games, but we probably didn’t deserve it and we were disappointed with that,” he said.
“We thought we would get up and running through the qualifiers and to be beaten by Longford in the qualifiers the way we did, it was very hard to take and a massive disappointment.
“But maybe this year it has helped a bit. The three previous year we had got to the Ulster final each year, we were just used to it. Whereas last year was a wee bit of a jolt and I suppose it made us realise how lucky we were to be in Ulster and the three Ulster finals in a row. It shows you how quickly the thing can turn sour and how quickly it can end.
“It re-motivated the boys and gives them that wee bit of drive to come back and prove themselves again.”
While Monaghan put in a promising League that included wins away to Mayo and Kerry, O’Rourke warned that tomorrow will be a very different affair.
“League and Championship are two completely different things,” he said. “Fermanagh will be disappointed with how they ended the League. But it is a great way for them to bounce back. They will have no fear of coming to Clones. It’s a big game for them as well.
“One thing we learned from last year is that it doesn’t matter what is said before the game, who is favourites and anything else. It’s how you perform on the day.”