GAA Football

Monaghan must match Tyrone depth to push on says Seamus McEnaney

Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney hopes to bulk up his panel ahead of the business end of the 2022 campaign - starting with the Dr McKenna Cup. Picture by Philip Walsh

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup

IF there were any lessons Monaghan learned from Tyrone’s All-Ireland triumph last year, it’s that strength in depth has never been more important – and this is something Seamus McEnaney aims to put right in the weeks and months ahead.

The Farneymen face Derry in their Dr McKenna Cup opener at Owenbeg tonight, before taking on Kieran Donnelly’s Fermanagh in Clones on Sunday. That Section C clash was originally scheduled for next Tuesday night but, after a conversation between the managers and Ulster GAA, it was agreed to bring the fixture forward.

The quick turnaround might push the Monaghan panel to its limits, especially so early in the year. But, with several new faces set to be introduced during the pre-season competition, the Monaghan management are keen to run the rule over everyone at their disposal.

And, having seen how the strength of Tyrone’s panel stood to them after the Red Hands edged past Monaghan in the Ulster final, McEnaney believes it is vital that the Farneymen continue to add depth for when the business end of the season comes around.

“We want to use the McKenna Cup to introduce three or four new players both days and then play with different panels, so the lads are looking forward to it.

“It’s great to be in Division One, we’ve been there for quite some time now, but you have to keep knocking on the door, keep blooding new players, keep putting depth into your panel… the biggest learnings we probably take from Tyrone is that the depth they had in their panel was the difference.

“When they ran into problems, they were able to introduce different players. There were players started the Ulster final who didn’t feature in the rest of the All-Ireland series – that’s the kind of depth Tyrone have, and they’re the types of places you need to be able to go to.

“It’s a big door to break down. Tyrone have won four All-Irelands in the last 20 years, Monaghan haven’t won one, but your goal is always the biggest prize.”

In a game that swung back and forward in awful weather conditions at Croke Park, it was only in extra-time that Tyrone managed to get their noses in front and claim the Anglo-Celt last summer.

Seeing how the Red Hands gathered momentum to go all the way proved what was possible for the rest of the chasing pack who had been hanging onto Dublin’s coat-tails for years.

McEnaney insists Monaghan have always believed they can mix it with the best, but expects a sting in tail from Dessie Farrell’s dethroned Dubs in 2022.

“When you’re in your own county bubble, with your own players and you’re driving to be the best you can be, you always feel the pack is close. You always feel you have a chance.

“Every year you feel Tyrone can compete to win the All-Ireland, no more than after they beat us in the Ulster final. I felt they could win the All-Ireland; I felt if we’d beat Tyrone, we could win the All-Ireland. You have to always think like that.

“When you have a team dominating like Dublin have dominated, then another team comes along, everyone feels they have an opportunity – but don’t forget Tyrone played in an All-Ireland final in 2018. They didn’t come out of the blue to win that All-Ireland.

“I think Dublin will bounce back. They were beaten in extra-time in an All-Ireland semi-final, they haven’t gone away by any stretch of the imagination. They’re the most successful team of the past decade, maybe one of the best teams I’ve ever seen playing Gaelic football, and that doesn’t just disappear overnight.”

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