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Redemption lies with Lilywhites

WHAT a difference a week makes. For Monaghan, hailed heretofore as the likeliest of the bunch of also rans known as 'the chasing pack' to upset the Kerry/Tyrone/Cork claim to Sam Maguire, it has been a wholly dispiriting seven days.

Tearing both Armagh and Fermanagh asunder in their immensely impressive preamble to the Ulster final meant plenty of what was regarded as the smart money was lumped on the Farney men to claim the Anglo Celt Cup in Clones last Sunday.

Then along came Tyrone, that well-built football machine for whom winter, spring or early summer formlines have been largely irrelevant.

What transpired was what McEnaney now describes as "an embarrassment" and "the worst Monaghan performance in six years".


"We prepared as well as we obviously could for an Ulster final even though the performance wouldn't suggest that," McEnaney told the Herald. "We would be beyond disappointed. We're embarrassed at how we performed against Tyrone."

So aghast was 'Banty' with his teams failings, he could hardly articulate them after the game but he recognises now an almost complete lack of the characteristic that has defined the team in his tenure.

"There's a good few things," he notes now. "But one of the main things was a lack of work-rate -- which, in fairness, you wouldn't usually associate with this team. Our work-rate was never questioned but it wasn't up to standard in the Ulster final. Far from it. Along with that, we dropped too much ball in the tackle.

"There were several other things but listen, we have to draw a line in the sand about last Sunday and move on to this Saturday. Last Sunday is over. We can do nothing about the past but we can about the future."

The praise of early summer has now been washed away in a typhoon of pessimism in Monaghan, yet going back to the plaudits which the team attracted post Armagh and Fermanagh might pinpont the route of their demise against Tyrone.

Bouquets of praise were thrown at their feet for abandoning the abrasive, defensive mentality which had become their hallmark, in favour of a more positive, direct gameplan which caused a glut of scores in their Ulster campaign.

So if deficiencies in their attitude and work-rate were to blame for the Tyrone collapse, was McEnaney too quick in abandoning an effective formula?

"I'm not so sure," he responds. "We created a lot of chances early on in the game and didn't take them. We could have been 1-3 to no score up and that would have injected a different energy into the team and that might have taken Tyrone out of a defensive mood. But full credit to Tyrone.

"But leaving Tyrone out of the equation, we would be wildly disappointed and embarrassed with how we performed. But we're talking about a team with three All-Ireland championships in the past seven years."


Tomorrow, we're talking about Kildare, a side for whom momentum is now a primary cause of optimism. Big wins away against Ulster opposition -- Antrim and Derry -- either side of an easy-ish defeat of Leitrim leave them in the sort of optimistic mindframe few sides outside of the quartet of provincial champions can boast.

Weighed against the negative vibes of last Sunday, Monaghan are likely to be well behind on the psychological scoreboard before the ball is thrown in tomorrow.

"Kildare have been very impressive in the last three or four games," McEnaney agrees. "They're really playing top class football. To go to beat Derry and score 2-15 in their back yard is a massive achievement for any team. The big difference is that Kildare are coming into this after winning three games whereas we're going in after our worst defeat and worst performance in six years.

"There's no doubt that Kildare have huge momentum by the very fact that they have won three games. There's no getting away from the fact that when we got to the Ulster final, we wanted to win it but unfortunately that didn't happen. We have to lick our wounds and the problem is we only have six days to do it. It's quite difficult for management and players to rise that up again. Kildare have the advantage, no doubt."

Much has been made this week of Monaghan's new link to the Kildare dressing room: Paul Grimley. For the past two years, he stood side-by-side with Kieran McGeeney and co-plotted their march towards successive All- Ireland quarter-finals before taking McEnaney's offer of a spot in his stable late last year after failing to agree terms with the Armagh county board to succeed Peter McDonnell as manager.

Further back, he trained Armagh when 'Geezer' was Joe Kernan's on-field leader and McEnaney reckons he could provide crucial insight into how Kildare's boss thinks about tomorrow's match. "Obviously, he thinks he knows the way Kieran McGeeney thinks. If anybody knows the way McGeeney thinks, it's Paul," says McEnaney.

"But Kieran McGeeney is a very astute manager. Kieran McGeeney sleeps, eats and drinks nothing else only football. He's probably one of the most professional managers in the country by virtue of the fact that he devotes his whole energy to it," he adds. "He has done a brilliant job since he went down to Kildare and has really turned 2010 around for them."