GAA Football

Monaghan minor boss 'Banty' relishing second chance

Monaghan minor manager Seamus McEnaney during the Ulster MFC preliminary round. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

Ulster MFC qualifying round one: Antrim v Monaghan (Corrigan Park, 2pm today)

MONAGHAN Minor manager Seamus McEnaney is understandably happy they’ve got into the ‘second chance saloon’ through the ‘back door’.

However, he’s even more pleased that the format is now traditional knockout as they travel to take on Antrim in Belfast this afternoon.

The relish is evident in the voice of ‘Banty’ as he declares: “We’re back into a scenario that I’m very used to, of ‘winners takes all’ in the Ulster Championship. Now there is no safety net, so it’s good old-fashioned Championship.”

That description could have been applied to their opening defeat in Derry, a 2-14 to 2-13 extra time thriller. Despite his disappointment, McEnaney’s initial recollection of that gutting last-gasp loss is tinged by his trademark enthusiasm: “It was a great game of football and we got caught by a sucker punch with the very last kick of the game.”

This year’s new format for the U17 Championship at least allows teams to have another go and the Corduff clubman acknowledged:

“That left the pill a bit easier to swallow, the very fact that we’re still in the Ulster Championship. It would have been absolutely devastating for us to be out of it after the Derry match. A huge amount of work has gone in to the lads and they’ve put in a huge amount of work.

“It’s a brilliant idea to have a ‘back door’. It’s a great competition – the Ulster League and Ulster Championship at Minor level are the best competitions in Ireland at this level.”

Monaghan impressed in that League, and went on to win the Jim McGuigan Cup with comfortable victories over Tyrone then Donegal in the final.

They will travel north-east with a combination of caution and self-confidence: “None of my players have played in Corrigan Park, it’s quite a difficult place to get a result, a tight pitch, but we’re going down there more interested in how my team performs.”

Antrim’s only win the League was a narrow one, in Fermanagh. The young Saffrons then appeared comfortably beaten by the Erne lads at this evening’s venue in their opener last weekend, losing 2-8 to 0-8, but McEnaney insisted that game was closer than the score-line suggested:

“They were quite unlucky – they had a goal chance to equalise the game with about 10 minutes to go, that they missed.

“Listen, they’re a decent team: they’ve some very strong players up front and are quite strong around the middle; actually around midfield they dominated against Fermanagh…

“Anything can happen in games at this level. We are very much on our guard.”

The young Saffrons’ cause was not helped by two dismissals, both for second yellow cards, losing forwards Danann McKeogh and Conor Morris in the final quarter of the game.

Their initial loss to Fermanagh was the county’s first such setback at this level since 2013. They too have a second chance but even if Antrim keep a full complement on the pitch the Farney lads are favoured to progress to meet Donegal next weekend.

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GAA Football