GAA Football

Upbeat Banty hoping for a Farney day in ancient rivalry

Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney (right). Picture by Philip Walsh

WORRIED? Nah. Concerned? No. Frustrated? Not a bit of it.

Each dimly-lit path the concoction of journalists try to take Seamus McEnaney down, he bounces away. If any of those emotions takes him, he’s covering it well.

He’s in the mood for the bright side of life.

“Delighted to be in Division One” for another year, with “a line drawn in the sand” after the defeat to Kerry and draw with Meath that secured it in less convincing fashion than they’d have liked.

The crippling restrictions on the hospitality trade in which his livelihood has long been aren’t frustrating.

“Frustration is something that I don’t really do. You take life as it comes to you, there’ll always be setbacks and sometimes you have to keep knocking the door and move on to something else.

“I don’t see it that way. We’ve been dealt a setback in the country and the world, and it’s how we deal with it to get out of it.

“I think the GAA, it was an absolute no-brainer for the league and championship to go on. The amount of people that got enjoyment at the weekend from National League games, never mind going into the championship this weekend.

“There could be over a million people, 25 per cent of the population of Ireland, watching the games over the weekend, maybe more. I think it’s brilliant for everybody, for the country’s mental health, that it went ahead.”

They now face an enemy he knows better than any other. Living less than a kilometre from the Breffni jurisdiction, he knows the rivalry all too well.

With a turn of phrase that would this profession green of envy, he’s off down the enchanted path of old battles between the two closest rivals in the GAA.

“Since God was a child, the rivalry has been very strong and form goes completely out the window.

“The scenario going into this weekend, it means nothing what position you are in the league comes 1.15pm on Saturday when the ball’s thrown up.”

He goes back to ’88 in his mind, perhaps not making the instant connection to today’s circumstances.

The previous summer, Monaghan had been big favourites but were outgunned and beaten by a joyous neighbour.

With revenge on the mind a year later, Eugene ‘Nudie’ Hughes ran riot in a packed St Tiernach’s Park.

“Clones was packed to the rafters. I was a teenager at the time. The rivalry’s brilliant…”

‘Banty’, with the hour ticking towards 10pm, gives a sense of what he values around the camp when he’s asked of the influence of his coach, former Down forward Conor Laverty.

“Lav is a highly motivated operator. He’s an absolutely fantastic coach. Kilcoo men are more like Monaghan men than Down men sometimes.

“I think that maybe sums it up. He’s a fantastic operator, and he’s great craic, a damn cheeky fecker as well. He’s fit for giving plenty of bad manners.

“There’s always great craic, thank God with this Monaghan team there is. Laverty’s the king of that, he’s the biggest messer of the lot.

“He’s fitted like a glove into the Monaghan setup.”

Every time a player’s name comes up on his phone, he thinks “Oh my God”. Covid could derail any team’s plans without a second’s notice.

“You’re planning on a daily basis. Sometimes the phone rings and it’s one of your players and you’re thinking ‘oh my God’. Thankfully that hasn’t happened.

“We put a lot of work in to try and keep everyone within the group. So far that’s been successful, but that could change tomorrow morning, you just don’t know.

“There’s setbacks in life, there’ll be setbacks before the weekend, there’ll be setbacks in the middle of the game – it’s how you deal with setbacks. If we get them, we have to deal with them.”

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