GAA Football

New Monaghan management must look to future: Paul Finlay

Former Farney playmaker Paul Finlay believes Monaghan must avoid looking for a 'quick fix' as they begin the search for a successor to Seamus McEnaney. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

MONAGHAN must not look for a “quick fix” when appointing a successor to Seamus McEnaney – with a long-term plan required to ensure the Farney remain at Gaelic football’s top table, according to former playmaker Paul Finlay.

McEnaney called time on Wednesday, bringing an end to his second stint in charge after three years at helm.

Exiting the Ulster Championship at the hands of eventual champions Derry was a huge disappointment, with subsequent All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Mayo ultimately turning out to be the Corduff man’s last stand.

And, as the search begins for his successor, Finlay believes patience will be required on all sides if Monaghan are to turn emerging talent into established performers.

“We can’t be looking for a quick fix – that’s what Monaghan need to avoid,” said the Ballybay man.

“You have to be thinking more long-term than maybe two or three years. There needs to be a plan for five, six, seven years, you need that commitment from a manager to look that direction.

And you need the people of Monaghan to back that person and be patient.

“Some people would argue there hasn’t been enough new blood brought through… we just don’t have the conveyor belt of players. I don’t think there’s anybody could say the team that started against Derry wasn’t the best team Monaghan could put out in an Ulster Championship match, no matter what age profile the guys are.

“The squad is going to have to go through a period where you don’t always have the big leaders who have been there for a period of time – you really are looking at having to put new players into that environment, and that’s going to be difficult.

“The likes of Conor Leonard, Sean Jones, you’re going to have to be using them a lot more. They’re ready now to take that step and get a starting place when the Division One campaign gets up and running.”

And while that transition could take a toll in the short term, Finlay believes the building blocks are already in place for Monaghan to remain competitive at the top level.

Although operating from a relatively small pool of players, the Farney have long been built on maximum buy-in from the best players in the county. The challenge for the new management, Finlay insists, is to ensure that remains the case.

“Monaghan have been blessed the last number of years, going to Croke Park, playing in Ulster finals, and I have confidence there shouldn’t be a major drop off from that.

“The coaching structures within the county are really strong, and then you have everybody willing to commit. To me, that’s more important than anything – that the new manager is able to come in and keep that going.

“There’s an onus on the players too, when there’s a change of leadership, that they remember what has gone before and hold up those standards set over the last decade and beyond.”

The Monaghan County Board have looked outside the county borders for a manager in years gone by, with great success in the case of Malachy O’Rourke, who helped deliver Ulster titles in 2013 and 2015.

But there are no shortage of candidates within Monaghan too, including former minor boss Mark Counihan, current Scotstown manager Colin McAree and Finlay’s former team-mates Owen Lennon and Vinny Corey, both of whom have been involved with recent management teams.

“For me, it’s always better if you can get a manager from within your own county. It’s hard to beat that if you have it.

“But inter-county football is about so much more than being a good coach - you have to build a good team around you. That side of it is getting bigger every year.

“You would want somebody who can tick all those boxes, but certainly I would love to see it from within. Ultimately, though, you just want the right person.”

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