McEnaney's boys set sights on Minor prize
Monaghan laid down a marker that they could become serious contenders for the Ulster Minor Football Championship title by the efficient manner in which they dealt with the challenge of Donegal in the provincial Minor League (Jim McGuigan Cup) final at the weekend.
Monaghan had entered the competition against a backdrop of hope rather than confidence but in recording a 2-12 to 1-12 victory over their north west opponents they showed that they may yet prove a serious force in the championship.
Donegal, though, made life difficult for the Farney county in the first half who had Jason Irwin to think for an early goal that gave them a rather tenuous 1-9 to 0-9 interval lead.
But it was in the second half that Monaghan stepped up the pace considerably.
Bolstered by a second goal from Lochlainn Power, they made their scoring chances count with Sean Jones (0-7) and Aaron Mulligan (0-4) to the fore in their team's points scoring spree.
It was left to Shane O'Donnell, Eric Carr and Dylan Dougan to spark Donegal's resistance. Dougan, indeed, proved a very capable substitute by scoring 1-1.
Donegal simply had no answer to Monaghan's pace and fitness in the last quarter in particular and now manager Seamus McEnaney will have his side out again on Saturday next when they meet Derry in the Ulster Championship at Celtic Park (6.00pm).
McEnaney, who was in charge of the Monaghan side for six years before serving terms with Meath and Wexford, is now fully focused on nurturing his native county's up and coming talent but although encouraged by the weekend success, he is emphatic that much bigger challenges lie on the horizon.
"The championship will now be played at Under 17 level so the lads will be under a little bit more pressure but the hope is that they can build on this league success. They are showing good application but the fact that we have to go to Derry will make it tough for us," said McEnaney.
Yet although Saturday's match is coming hot on the heels of their league triumph, the spirit and vibrancy within the Monaghan panel right now would suggest that they could prove a much stronger force in the race to the provincial title.
They will be up against a Derry side that lost to Down in the Ulster Minor League Shield final at the weekend by 3-8 to 2-8 after extra-time.
After low-scoring first half, Down led by 1-2 to 0-1 at the interval but when the sides were deadlocked at the finish Down's fitness and defensive stability helped carry them to victory.
Down's win provides encouragement for a county that has certainly had its share of travails recently.
But their weekend win will give the team renewed confidence in advance of the forthcoming Ulster Under 17 Championship.