Monaghan boss Ciaran McBride sings praises of Antrim's Seamus McGarry after virtuoso performance
EirGrid Ulster U21 Football Championship
MONAGHAN’S big-hitters may have stepped up to the plate eventually to see off Antrim, but there was only one name on the lips of those filtering out of The Dub Arena on Wednesday night.
From the first whistle until the last, Seamus McGarry was outstanding. The Aldergrove man finished with eight points, seven coming from play, each swing of his mighty left boot somehow more impressive than the last.
The Saffrons had plenty of strong showings in defeat but McGarry produced a virtuoso performance, giving the watching Gearoid Adams and Frank Fitzsimons food for thought ahead of Antrim’s next National League game against Laois on March 19
Even Monaghan boss Ciaran McBride admitted to being spellbound at times.
“McGarry was phenomenal,” he said.
“I’ve been watching U21 football and youth football for a long time, and that’s as good a performance as I’ve ever seen.
“That’s not me trying to bum the lad up; it’s just admiration for a kid who took some really tremendous scores.
“That was the springboard upon which Antrim built - they grew in confidence from that.”
McBride wasn’t quite so complimentary about his own team’s performance.
In a preliminary round clash that was touch and go until the final 15 minutes, Monaghan kicked 12 wides to Antrim’s three and struggled to get to grips with the Saffrons’ short kick-outs and strong running game.
He continued: “If I am looking at it coldly Antrim – for 45 minutes - were the more dominant, more organised, more disciplined and ultimately the better team.
“Antrim put us under a lot of pressure, they had an established game-plan, they knew what they were doing.
“We knew this was coming and your greatest fear is being ill-prepared and meeting a team who are very prepared and very organised.
“If you’re coming up against teams like Donegal, Tyrone, Cavan, you’re playing against them every year. But we came up against Antrim and we had literally no information on them.
“We knew some of the players, the likes of Conor Small playing up in the senior team and we knew they had quality players, but the difficulty is when you don’t know enough. It was just too disjointed for my liking, and the nightmare nearly came true.
“But, in fairness to them, we said at half-time that if we come through this, it would be them who would sort it out and ultimately it was them who sorted it out.”
That said, the former Tyrone forward was impressed by the character his team showed in the closing stages to seal a four-point win and book a quarter-final date with Derry next Wednesday night.
Having led Monaghan to a first Ulster U21 title since 1999 last April, McBride admits there is a burden of expectation on the class of 2017.
With only a handful of that panel remaining, McBride said the current Farney crop is a different breed to last year’s crew.
He said: “It probably weighs on their shoulders because last year’s team set a benchmark.
“They’re a completely different team. Last year’s team was chests out, fancy haircuts, go-faster stripes, music… this year’s team is much more settled and chilled out, more relaxed.
“The difference between the two is immense. These boys are deep thinkers. With last year’s team you could push the buttons and find a reaction – I’m still trying to find which buttons to press with this group.”