Seamus McEnaney: Officials will 'tighten up' on staff infractions
SEAMUS ‘Banty’ McEnaney believes that the match officials for Saturday’s eagerly awaited Ulster Championship semi-final replay between Donegal and Monaghan will “tighten up” on members of the Donegal backroom team attempting to distract Farney free-taker Conor McManus.
The pundits on Sky Sports, who screened the first game ‘live’ from Kingspan Breffni Park last Saturday night, also picked up on the perceived infringement.
McEnaney, who managed his native Monaghan between 2004 and 2010, said: “When Conor McManus was hitting his second last free Maxie Curran [Donegal assistant manager] ran straight across him and their other water carrier came out in front of some of Monaghan’s kick-outs so I would see a lot of that being tightened up this week.”
In a tetchy affair, Donegal produced an excellent second half but were pegged back by a couple of converted frees by McManus in the dying embers of Saturday’s pulsating clash.
For Monaghan to triumph in Saturday’s replay, McEnaney feels that their key players need to improve.
“The bottom line from Monaghan’s point of view is that their bigger men didn’t perform as well as they can.
“Kieran Hughes and Darren Hughes can do better. Conor McManus was exceptional from frees but he didn’t get away from Paddy McGrath from play. So Conor can do better.
“But, forget about our forward play, we can do better in defence. We gave Donegal three or four clear-cut goal chances. That disappointed me. If you do that, then you’re going to be beaten.”
McEnaney heaped praise on Donegal boss Rory Gallagher for his tactical deployment of Michael Murphy at full-forward.
Although the big Glenswilly man missed a couple of frees, 'Banty' felt Murphy had his best game against Monaghan since the rivalry between the counties emerged four seasons ago.
“That was probably Michael Murphy’s best game against Monaghan from open play. For the first time he got the upper hand against Vinny Corey.
“I think Rory Gallagher played Murphy very cutely. He didn’t play Murphy at full-forward in any of the League matches and he didn’t play him at full-forward in the first round of the Championship, and he landed him at full-forward last Saturday night.
“I couldn’t understand why Murphy wasn’t at full-forward against Monaghan before now. He looks a bigger threat in there alongside Patrick McBrearty.”
After a series of disappointing early round games in this year’s provincial Championship, last Saturday night’s clash between Donegal and Monaghan produced a brilliant spectacle.
“In my opinion, it was the best Ulster Championship match since the peak years of Armagh and Tyrone in 2003, ‘04 and ’05,” said McEnaney.
“For me, it had everything. It was physical, it was really well refereed. You had Maxie Curran creating all sorts of pandemonium (laughing), you had managers not happy with each other, you had yellow cards, black cards - you had everything you would associate with a real rivalry between Monaghan and Donegal."
Monaghan might have stolen a share of the spoils last weekend – but McEnaney believes that Donegal will probably be happy with another game to reach the July 17 showpiece final.
“If you were in Donegal shoes, you’d be thinking: ‘We were three points down against Monaghan with 14 men and we drew the game.’
“It depends what way you look at it. Obviously Rory Gallagher will look at it as positively as he can. It’s very simple ahead of this replay: anybody that calls this game is only taking a guess because for the last four years there has been an average of one point between Monaghan and Donegal.
“It’s going to be equally as tight. One of the biggest surprises that I got going to last week’s game was the average age of the Donegal was 25 – I couldn’t believe it - and Monaghan’s was 26. And yet Donegal were seen as an ageing team but they’re far from it.”