This wasn’t the first time that Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney managed a Monaghan win over Tyrone, but what’s rare is precious as he allowed a small smile play on his lips after this most commanding of wins.
“It’s my second,” he told reporters.
“Only my second may I add. An oul’ National League game in 2010 in Inniskeen, I could nearly tell you the date and time! I was on the end of it the other way enough times, lads.”
If he was enjoying it, yet trying his best to suppress any early-season self-satisfaction, then you couldn’t have blamed him. The pre-game odds had Tyrone as favourites but it was difficult to fathom that given their win last weekend was helped by a catastrophic Meath goalkeeping comedy, while Monaghan spurned chances to beat Galway on the road.
There may have been just four points in it at the end but Monaghan’s purpose and structure left the Tyrone challenge looking rather insipid and disjointed.
It’s clear Mickey Harte’s men are missing the presence of Cathal McShane in the full-forward line. The top scorer in last year’s Championship appears to be inching ever-closer to a move to Australian Rules football as Harte explained afterwards.
The week before, Harte told reporters he wasn’t aware McShane was even in the northern hemisphere after he turned up to watch the Meath game. McShane attended a club team meeting on Tuesday night and suggested he might be on his way, though nothing is in stone yet.
Judging by Harte’s comments here, there is only a sliver of hope he will be a Tyrone player this year.
“I always said I wouldn’t give up hope until I was sure that he had signed an alternative arrangement,” he said.
“I’m not sure that that has happened right yet, but I know that it’s on the agenda.”
Monaghan looked the far stronger team in the opening half. They managed to get runners in the right position as they overran the Tyrone defence, in particular the half back line as they repeatedly found gaping holes between the two lines.
They grabbed the opening two points, the first from a turnover, with Dermot Malone drilling over and soon after Conor McManus pointed a mark he took after doubling back on a run to create space.
While both teams retreated into their defensive lines while without position, Monaghan’s Darren Hughes mirroring Colm Cavanagh as sweeper, Monaghan appeared to have the greater urgency with the ball.
Tyrone survived on low-percentage shots such as a stupendous effort from Kieran McGeary, a high looping Kyle Coney shot that home goalkeeper Rory Beggan just could not reach and a Frank Burns effort from distance that appeared very, very close to the top of the post.
At half-time Monaghan were just a point ahead at 0-7 to 0-6 despite playing into the wind. Tyrone tried something different from the start of the second period with Colm Cavanagh ambling into the full-forward position with Conor Boyle picking him up.
Their hopes took a huge blow when a through ball from Mark Bradley was cut out by Dermot Malone and following a brilliant run from Conor Boyle, Karl O’Connell was put through for a soccer style finish past Niall Morgan into the net to put Monaghan four up after 45 minutes.
From then on, they coasted home to victory, Kieran Hughes and Mark Bradley getting straight red cards for their involvement in a late fracas with the game long settled by then.
Last week Monaghan contributed richly to a bit of a throwback in style against Galway, here it was pragmatic football all the way with the end result the most important thing.
“We are going through a process here with a really good backroom team,” said Seamus McEnaney.
“The lads are working really hard and the players are working really hard. We put in a decent performance in Galway last weekend, the type of football we would like to play, but this was more about the result more than anything else, how we would go about getting that.”
Tyrone have issues. They also have a lengthy injury list and require a lot of their front of house men back pronto. Things are unlikely to improve in the short term with Kerry rolling into Omagh next Sunday.
C McCarthy (0-4); K O’Connell (1-0); C McManus (0-2, 1 mark); J McCarron, K Hughes, N Kearns, C Boyle, D Ward, A Mulligan (0-1 each)
D McCurry (frees), F Burns (0-2 each); K Coney, N Sludden, K McGeary, N Kelly, DD Mulgrew, K Coney, N Morgan 0-1(1x’45’) (0-1 each)
R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; K O’Connell, D Ward, M Bannigan; D Hughes, N Kearns; R McAnespie, C McCarthy, D Malone; J McCarron, K Hughes, C McManus
A Mulligan for McCarron (49m), C McGuinness for Bannigan (56m), S Carey for McManus (70m), D Wylie for McCarthy (74m), P Keenan for O’Connell (75m)
N Morgan; HP McGeary, R McNamee, L Rafferty; P Harte, R Brennan, C Meyler; C Cavanagh, F Burns; K McGeary, N Sludden, D McCurry; M Bradley, K Coney, R O’Neill
C Kilpatrick for O’Neill (HT), N Kelly for McNamee (40m, Blood Sub), DD Mulgrew for Cavanagh, T McCann for Harte (both 54m), M Cassidy for Coney (60m), B McDonnell for Burns (64m)
David Gough (Meath)
The game in 60 seconds
Let's revisit our old friend, the offensive mark. There was only one scored in this game, but it belonged to the 'completely unacceptable' variety, when Karl O'Connell floated a short kickpass to Conor McManus.
McManus put his hand up to signal a mark but referee David Gough spent a good few seconds checking with the linesman if the pass came from outside the 45 metre mark. In the meantime, he was tackled by two Tyrone defenders, leading to that grey area of whether it should be moved in or not. Again we ask the question, how is this all going to pan out on a wet Tuesday night between two junior teams in, say, north Kerry?
The logic is that the sin bin would help the team enjoying the numerical advantage, but Tyrone shipped the Monaghan goal while Darren Hughes was off the pitch. That says a lot about Monaghan's organisation and perhaps Conor Laverty's influence with the Kilcoo counter-attacking style writ large over this game.
Conor McCarthy adorned this game with four points from play and generally buzzed around torturing Kieran McGeary. An honourable mention must also go to the hometown boy Dermot Malone who won ball not so much dirty, as utterly filthy.
Tyrone's Ronan McNamee and Monaghan's Kieran Hughes had an almighty collision at the start of the second half. Both team doctors had a long hard look and while McNamee came off for Tyrone, Hughes remained on. Without Michael McKernan and Padraig Hampsey already, Harte will not want to lose McNamee also for next week's guests, Kerry.
Tyrone host Kerry in Omagh next week. Monaghan are in Croke Park this Saturday night. One team will be feeling good about themselves. The other? Not so much.