Evergreen Seamus McEnaney hoping Monaghan U20s cause an upset against Cavan
MONAGHAN'S inimitable U20 manager Seamus ‘Banty' McEnaney hopes he will be telling his players to go to the cinema after Sunday's Ulster Championship clash with rivals Cavan.
During his one year with the county minor team last season– where they clinched their first Ulster title in 70 years by beating Derry in the decider – McEnaney preached to his players the importance of celebrating victories.
Having moved up a rung to the U20 grade this season, McEnaney said: “When I took the minor job I was wondering, how are these young fellas at 17 were going to take to me, someone who's been around the block for quite some time…
“I suppose my line of work helped, running night clubs and bars. When you win a Championship match you have to celebrate it, and I used to say to them that the management team was going to have a drink and that they could go to the cinema.
Laughing, he added: “I'm not quite sure if they went to the cinema. Every time I mentioned the cinema there was a big cheer anyway.”
Sean Jones, Brendan Og Duffy, Ryan Farrelly, Ryan McNulty, Ronan Grimes and Jack Duggan have all moved up with ‘Banty' from the U17 grade to U20 this season.
McEnaney, who managed the Monaghan, Wexford and Meath seniors in a successful sideline career, was keen to stay with the U17s for a second season but was persuaded by the county board to develop the players on the cusp of the senior ranks.
McEnaney credits Paul O'Connor, Monaghan's Games Administration manager, for making the transition from U17 to U20 virtually seamless.
“Paul deserves a lot of the credit for where Monaghan football is,” he said.
“I'll give you an example: last year I managed Monaghan minors. In the U15 and U16 development squads I got one player outside of those squads. One player, that's all, outside of the development squads.
“So they had everything caught. So my job was very handy. I actually trialled 90 players but the reality was they were all there, bar one player.”
Dating back to Banty's days in charge of the Monaghan seniors right through to Malachy O'Rourke's seven years in charge – which yielded two Ulster titles, and ended last Saturday night – have always punched above their weight on the national stage.
A regular diet of club fixtures and the introduction of the five points per win league system (for teams who field their county players) are reasons why GAA life runs relatively smoothly in the Oriel County.
“The five points system is working really well in Monaghan. Club players are getting games three weekends in a row and then a weekend off.
“It means stag parties can be organised around all that. Regardless of my U20 squad does against Cavan on Sunday, the county board has put everything in place for this group of fellas.
“For instance, they allowed me to do strength and conditioning with the remainder of last year's minors for four months. A lot of these players aren't even involved in my panel but we conditioned them anyway.
“Anybody who is capable of playing for Monaghan is playing for Monaghan. That's a huge thing. As a minor manager or an U20 manager your job is to bring through as many players into the senior panel, and we're bring them through conditioned and ready for action.”
Monaghan U20s lost all three of their Leo Murphy Cup games – Armagh, Down and Meath - ahead of their win-or-bust Championship clash with John Brady's Breffni men on Sunday (Kingspan Breffni Park, 4pm).
After taking over Monaghan seniors back in 2004, the evergreen Corduff man has lost none of his enthusiasm for Gaelic football.
“I love the buzz of Gaelic football,” he said.
“I was at a club match on Friday night, my U20s were training Saturday morning, I was at a club match on Saturday evening and I was at a club match on Sunday.
“If there was a game on every day I'd be at it - I love football. I get a great buzz out of it. I'm extremely busy in my business. So, for me, the U20s gig is 20 minutes from the house to training… All I'm thinking about right now is Cavan in Breffni Park on Sunday. I love Championship weeks as it gets the butterflies going again.”