Mike Monahan, 53, has covered local sports in central Illinois for more than 20 years, but his family connection to his hometown of Arcola and to sports might run even deeper, stretching to two legendary coaches. Plus, his father and three uncles raised 31 kids in Arcola. For a time, a Monahan resided in every grade.
Monahan wrote thousands of articles for the Mattoon Journal Gazette/Charleston Times-Courier across 19-plus years, and likely a couple of thousand more during a seven-year tenure at the Arcola Record-Herald, four years at the now defunct Cerro Gordo/Bement News-Record and one year at the Piatt County Journal Republican in Monticello. He will now be covering sports for both Coles County Sports and again for his hometown Arcola Record-Herald.
Monahan’s grandfather played for Knute Rockne, a cousin played for Lou Holtz and his uncle was drafted by the AMA’s Houston Mavericks. Mike, a journalism graduate of St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, is married to the former Jill Koehl, a Prairie Central High graduate.
We’re excited that Mike will continue his excellent sports reporting here in east Central Illinois. He recently spoke with Jeff Owens to talk about his sports writing experiences.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: How did you get interested in sports?
MONAHAN: My family is big into sports as my grandfather, Tom Monahan, played under Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. I have had three cousins play football at Notre Dame – Tom Monahan, grandson of the above-mentioned Tom Monahan; Jon Monahan, for one year; and Mark Monahan, who had the honor of playing under Lou Holtz. My uncle, Jim, played basketball at Notre Dame and was the captain of the 1966-67 and was drafted in the ABA by the Houston Mavericks. But he never played. My dad was on the first-ever 1957-58 Arcola Sweet 16 team, the one that beat Mattoon in the regional championship. My cousins Joe and Tim were also on the fencing team at Notre Dame.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: How many articles did you write for the JG-TC?
MONAHAN: 6,431 articles in 19 3/4 years. That does not include area roundups or stats or blurbs.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Who was your favorite coach to interview?
MONAHAN: Dale Schuring, who coached at Arthur, Arthur-Lovington and Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. He has been coaching as long as I was at the JG-TC and I knew him before that when I was writing for the Arcola paper. He is honest in his answers even if it is something not positive about his team. He always had a compliment about the other team. He talks about team first and then individuals, and he always has something positive to say about someone either on his team or the opponents. He also gets the most out of his football and basketball teams as he knows how to do that. There have been several football and basketball teams that on paper looked like below .500 teams, but he would get them to finish well above .500.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Who was your favorite team to cover?
MONAHAN: The Arcola Purple Riders 2015 Class 1A state championship season for football. That Arcola football team was fun to cover because it was such a fast team! They were not tremendously big up front, but they were fast and strong. It wasn’t until the quarterfinals that they had a game that was decided by less that 33 points and that was in the second round of the playoffs and with the JV playing a majority of the second half. The quarterfinal game was a 14-13 win over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Of course, it being my hometown helped as did winning the state title.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Who are your all-time favorite athletes to interview?
MONAHAN: Taylor Edwards from Arcola High School and Kyle Hudson at Mattoon High School. They both became very good athletes in college, but, even if they didn’t, they were still my favorites because they were patient with me and the other reporters and were always classy in their responses.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: What was your favorite article at the JG-TC?
MONAHAN: A story entitled “Cumberland sports rise to new level” from March 9, 2010. From 2004-2010, Cumberland made the football playoffs for the first time, earned back-to-back third place finishes in volleyball, but has never been to state before. Softball won four straight regionals and two sectionals, girls’ basketball had back-to-back 20-win seasons, boys cross country finished second in 2005 and girls cross country won two regional titles. Plus, boys’ basketball won its first regional in 15 years in 2009-10, baseball had a winning record in 2008 and, as usual, there were state wrestlers during that time – all things that had not been done before or in a long time. I also loved a story where Arthur-Lovington beat Tuscola 36-7 in the quarterfinals of the 2004 Class 1A playoffs. Arthur had beaten Tuscola 24-6 in the season-opener also.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: What was the greatest game you ever covered and why?
MONAHAN: The 2018 Class 1A state softball championship: Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg 8, Goreville 5. A lot was going on besides the game in which the Hatchets upset heavily-favored Goreville as it was voted that the sports co-op would end after that season. Fortunately, that didn’t happen as a few months later it was decided the co-op would continue.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: What is your favorite sport to cover?
MONAHAN: Basketball is my favorite sport to cover because I played it for four years, along with one year of track, and my dad being on the Sweet 16 team also helped as I have heard how special that team was. I always went to the state tournament games when they were in Champaign. There are so many things that can change with the addition or subtraction of one player, and just like any other sport you have good games and bad games. And, in this case, you hope if an individual is having a bad game someone else or more than one player can pick you up.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: Is there an interview with a coach or athlete that you never got a chance to do?
MONAHAN: Adrianne Denney from Casey-Westfield who earned all-state honors as a freshman (in 2006) and a sophomore (2007) in softball and played volleyball. She died in November of 2006 of complications from surgery.
COLES COUNTY SPORTS: What has been your favorie concession stand?
MONAHAN: Back when Cheryl Ryan was in charge of Arthur’s, it was the best with a big variety of food.