McEneaney confident newcomers ready for test
MONAGHAN head into the NFL missing no fewer than 11 of the side that started the Ulster final against Tyrone last July, which goes some way towards explaining why they are 4/7 favourites to be relegated from Division 1.
There's more to it than that, however, according to manager Eamonn McEneaney, who is in his first season back in charge of his native county, having previously spent a lengthy spell with Louth.
"It's par for the course, I suppose, that a team like Monaghan would be tipped for the drop after their close call last year. It's not something we're thinking about -- all we're trying to do is make sure to get as much right as we possibly can and see where it takes us. Division 1 is a tough place to be but it's also very much where you want to be," he said.
Last year, Monaghan survived in Division 1 after finishing level on four points with Derry and Tyrone. They had a better scoring difference than Tyrone but were equal with Derry. However, Monaghan avoided relegation, having beaten Derry in their head-to-head clash.
With a weakened hand this year, Monaghan look in real danger of the drop.
Long and short-term injuries, coupled with the unavailability of some players for other reasons over the next few weeks at least, leaves McEneaney with no option but to introduce several newcomers for their opening league game with Galway on Sunday.
"We've got to be positive about this. We'll be playing far more newcomers than would normally be the case but the good side of that is that lads will gain valuable experience which should stand to them later on. They'll have to learn fast, though, because every game is vital," said McEneaney.
With Galway also missing some big names, it's an ideal game for Monaghan to introduce their new faces, especially as they will have home advantage in Inniskeen.
Their next two games are away to Armagh and Cork so a win on Sunday is crucial to Monaghan's prospects of staying in Division 1.
"A win on the first day is always a big boost and playing on home ground is a help but Galway are a good side so we're really up against it," said McEneaney.
Armagh are second favourites at 11/10 to be relegated, with All-Ireland runners-up Down on 13/8, followed by Galway on 15/8.
The GAA have announced that Saturday evening's Armagh-Dublin game will be an all-ticket event.
New Limerick boss Maurice Horan has named dual stars Stephen Lucey and Mark O'Riordan in his side to face Tipperary in their NFL Division 3 encounter.
Lucey starts at centre back with O'Riordan in the No 2 shirt as Horan names a strong line up.
Limerick (v Tipperary) : B Scanlon; M O'Riordan, J McCarthy, S Gallagher; J Riordan, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J Donovan, J Galvin; S Kelly, P Corrigan, S Buckley; I Ryan, S O'Carroll, G Collins.