GAA Football

Monaghan manager McEnaney confident senior players will continue next year

Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney insists the likes of Conor McManus and Colin Walshe won't be packing up their inter-county careers even next season. 

MONAGHAN manager Seamus McEnaney is confident… I could stop it there, just as he stopped me short, but his confidence on this occasion applies to the footballing future of all the county's long-serving stars.

Asked about this year possibly being 'one last hurrah' for the likes of Conor McManus, Darren Hughes, Karl O'Connell, Colin Walshe, and/or Drew Wylie, 'Banty' ended that topic of debate before the question even finished:

"I'll cut you very short. There is absolutely no sense of that. Whatever way you like, there is no sense of that. We could be here in 12 months' time and I will have every one of them back again. There is absolutely zero conversation around that."

Hughes and McManus are embarking on their 16th senior seasons with the Farneymen and McEnaney insists they and the other 30-somethings in the squad still have so much to offer Monaghan - this year and next:

"I gave Darren Hughes and Conor McManus their debut in 2007…I would chat to senior players all the time and we would work out what is best for the group and all that.

"But Darren Hughes, Karl O'Connell, Colin Walshe, Drew Wylie, they have phenomenal standards. They are brilliant. You talk about Darren Hughes, when he comes in you might think he has six weeks of work to do to get a bit off him. But he is into us in really good shape, mad for action.

"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.

"I'll be honest with you, you could talk about any of our senior players. They are not giving up this ghost easy. They are not handing over the baton easy…"

Still, the pressure for places on the Monaghan match-day 26, never mind the starting side, is ramping up, after a very impressive McKenna Cup campaign ended with a final win over Donegal.

Monaghan make the short journey to take on All-Ireland champions Tyrone in Healy Park in their Division One opener on Sunday afternoon, and McEnaney knows that will be another step up:

"Yes, we have a difficult first day. The All-Ireland champions in Omagh, it doesn't come much tougher than that and they are experienced campaigners.

"We value the presence of those experienced senior players in our dressing room majorly. We understand that we have to introduce some youth and we bring that gradually and try to get the best mixture possible, the best 26 on the day.

"We are trying to put a bit of depth in our panel for the summer, and to be fair to some of our young lads they did well."

There are two aspects to the quantity of quality on the Monaghan panel, as McEnaney explains: development and desire.

On the first front, Monaghan's underage coaching is excellent: "Paul O'Connor is the head of our Academy and he has a lot of credit to take for it. You see again some of our young fellas at 18, 19 years of age. We had a lot of U20 players there, Jason Irwin, Karl Gallagher and Shane Hanratty.

"We had Conor Leonard in there, he is 6' 4". He's really got his act together in the last 12 months and has shown enough in his football to suggest he should be in here. He has applied himself really well, worked really hard and the standard set by the senior players, you have to go to that standard or you will not be competing in our training.

"It's testament to our Academy structure right the way up and in fairness, our county board are getting things right. But listen, it is a long year ahead."

The second aspect returns to that point about players wanting to represent their county, as McEnaney proudly confirmed:

"The great thing about managing Monaghan is that nearly always the best players who could play for Monaghan are available to play. And that's a huge thing. It makes my job very easy.

"It's a great honour for me to manage Monaghan. It's a great honour for boys to play for Monaghan. We have players knocking down our door to play for Monaghan…we listen to people asking why their clubman isn't on.

We really have men knocking down our door and I think it is a great credit to our medical team that we played 31 players over the first weekend of the Dr McKenna Cup, that we had that many players fit to play football and in great shape. Not as fit as we would like them, but in good shape."

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