McEnaney hails Monaghan strength of character as minors weather Kildare storm
Monaghan 2-11 Kildare 0-8
Monaghan minor manager Séamus McEnaney hailed his side's mentality after they booked their place in the All-Ireland MFC semi-finals with a well-earned win over Kildare in Mullingar on Saturday.
A physically imposing Kildare side, showing seven changes from the team named, created chances in the opening exchanges, but Monaghan weathered the storm on a wet and windy afternoon, before pushing ahead with a well-worked Aaron Mulligan goal on 20 minutes.
McEnaney said: "This group of lads has unbelievable character.
"When you play Kildare and you're on the back foot early on while playing with the breeze, you need character and leadership; this team has it in abundance."
'Banty' added: "We had studied the opposition to try and get our match-ups right and then (Kildare) threw a few curveballs at us, they threw big men in. We expected Kennedy and Cleary to start, so we had a lot of homework done.
"They had some huge men and they put us under pressure early on, but our men stood up like Chrissy Flood and Jack Doogan at the back and Ógie (Ó Dufaigh).
"They're as solid as they come and you'd go to war with these fellas any day.
"I thought we made some majestic catches in the middle of the field through the likes of Karl Gallagher."
Despite playing into the elements in the second half, Monaghan upped their game, with early points by Mulligan and Seán Jones and a Donnach Swinburne goal - via an assist from roving goalkeeper Ryan Farrelly - pushing them well clear.
Kildare were restricted to just eight points, with five coming from frees by Pádraig Behan and Eoghan O'Haire.
Determined defending by Monaghan kept Kildare at bay and the Ulster champions eventually advanced with a bit to spare to a last-four clash with Kerry.
Holders Kerry will carry the favourites' tag, but McEnaney says Monaghan will not be overawed.
"Not too many Monaghan players have played in All-Ireland semi-finals in Croke Park," he said.
"Kerry are going for five in a row and they have beaten teams by big margins.
"But we will focus on ourselves and we will be as competitive as we can."
Monaghan: R Farrelly; C Flood, J Doogan, S Hanratty (0-1); R Grimes, B Óg Ó Dufaigh (Capt.), M Meehan; L Power (0-1), A Moore; J McGarrell, A Mulligan (1-3, 0-2f), K Gallagher (0-1); D Swinburne (1-1), S Jones (0-4f), J Irwin.
Subs: O O'Hanlon for Power (55 mins), J Wilson for McGarrell (57), J McGeown for Grimes (59), R Hanratty for Moore (60 + 1).
Kildare: J Ball; J Lynch, C McGroary, J Hamill; S Englishby, K Kelleher, D Caulfield; l Broderick, M Kiely; P Behan (0-5, 3f), A Beirne, J Cleary; P McDermott, E O'Haire (0-2f), A Kennedy.
Subs: N Jackman for Englishby, S Reilly (0-1) for Broderick (both H-T), M Curtin for Kiely (44), S Hill for Caulfield (55), D Costello for Cleary (59), S Morrissey for O'Haire (60 + 1).
Referee: P Falloon (Down).