'Banty' happy with Monaghan squad depth as Kieran Donnelly hails stamina of Covid-hit Fermanagh
Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section C, round two: Monaghan 0-16 Fermanagh 0-11
MONAGHAN'S strength-in-depth delighted their manager while Fermanagh's new boss was pleased at the stamina shown by his Covid-hit squad.
The hosts had this victory effectively wrapped up three minutes into the second half, when they raced into a seven-point lead, but the Erne County came back with honour to make a match of it.
Their new man in charge, Kieran Donnelly, revealed that Covid had seriously affected preparation for their return to competitive action:
"Yeah, we were well hit with it there. It was a logistical nightmare. We had somewhere between 10 and 15 with it, as well as close contacts, so it really made training really hard after gaining a good bit of momentum over Christmas.
"But again with that, they trained well in the small number we had. It is just coming to our doorstep again made it a bit harder to organise things, to go through things you want to go through."
Still, the Brookeborough man accentuated the positives of the situation - no pun intended - saying: "If there's any time to get it, now is the time. I am hoping that with a lot of our lads having had it, it will be well out of our system come the start of the National League.
"It's beginning to ease now, nearly all the players there today had it and they did suffer fatigue after it, there is no doubt."
That made Fermanagh's performance over the last third of the match all the more impressive, especially as Donnelly only brought on one substitute.
In contrast, Monaghan's experienced Seamus McEnaney made seven personnel changes during the game, having made 14 alterations to the team which started Friday night's draw in Derry.
The size and quality of his panel pleased him, although he'd have preferred his substitutes to have had a better effect on this game:
"To be able to turn out 31 players on the 9th of January makes for a positive weekend, albeit we were very disappointed with how the last quarter went, it was very ragged."
However, 'Banty' accepted that there was plenty for his county to crow about so far this year, saying; "All told, over the weekend we couldn't have asked for much more: a draw, a win, and it looks like we will get another game out of the McKenna Cup. We value the McKenna Cup seriously for our younger players."
Having said that, he hailed the influence of the more experienced men in his camp, such as goalkeeper Rory Beggan - the only man to start both matches - and the likes of Darren Hughes and Karl O'Connell, who both sat out this derby after lining out against Derry:
"I have to compliment our senior players. They set serious standards in training, off the pitch, on the pitch, everywhere we go, and the young players have to row in, or else they won't be there."
McEneaney also praised everyone involved around the squad for reducing the impact of Covid: "We have a really good medical team, headed up by Doctor Burke, it's second to none and he is very strict in what we do.
"We have a doctor who insists on double vaccination and booster. Our whole squad is that way and we would be very careful about everything we do. Team meetings, our food is all takeaway, we go straight to the pitch and so on.
"It is difficult, we would rather have the craic in the dressing rooms, but we hope to get back to that shortly."
For now, Monaghan can surely look forward to a McKenna Cup semi-final, while Fermanagh must re-group to host Derry next Saturday.