The difference between the haves and the have nots has been occupying Seamus McEnaney’s thoughts ahead of the biggest test in the game.
He takes his Monaghan team to Croke Park tonight to face the five-in-a-row All-Ireland champions in round three of the Allianz Football League — and, while the Ulster county has repeatedly refused to use their small population size as an excuse for anything, Banty reckoned this was as good a time as any to roll it out.
“Dublin, as we know, are the best team in the country for the last five years. They are a phenomenal team and they have a phenomenal pick of players,” he said.
“We have 55,000 and they have 1.5 million.
“Their pick is vast, but we will go up and perform as best we can.”
Monaghan beat Dublin in Clones in the opening round of last year’s campaign, winning 2-13 to 1-13, but that was as good as their season got.
They only managed one more win for the rest of the campaign against Cavan and were lucky to retain Division One status, Roscommon and Cavan making the drop instead.
Their summer wasn’t good either. Defeat by Cavan in the first round in Ulster was followed by a hard-fought first round qualifier win over Fermanagh in Clones before being well beaten by Armagh in round two.
They looked a tired side at that stage and Malachy O’Rourke stepped down shortly afterwards after a highly productive seven-year spell which gleaned two precious Ulster SFC titles.
Banty is in his second coming as Monaghan manager, and his enthusiasm looked to be rubbing off on the players as they followed up a good performance away to Galway with a good performance plus a win against Tyrone.
“The big thing we’re looking for is to get the hunger back in this group,” he says.
“I think to be fair over the two weeks the players have shown they have a really good appetite for the game.
“Our goal is to create a safety net first and then try to stay in the competition for as long as possible.
“I was very pleased with our performance in both weeks. It is a results-based game, but I was very happy with how we played against Galway.
What’s pleasing me most so far is our work ethic and how we implemented the game plan to face Tyrone.
“We only had seven days to put it together, but these lads are well used to playing Tyrone and some of our lads played really well, though you have to say Tyrone were missing a lot of players who would have made a big difference.
“When you’re playing Tyrone you have to get ahead of them and then they have to come out and that’s how it worked out.
“But every challenge is different. Galway posed a challenge, Tyrone was different and Dublin will be different again.”
Dublin’s opening gambit with Kerry was a game played on a level superior to anything Monaghan have faced for a long while.
A second-round trip to Castlebar could have posed difficulties for Dessie Farrell but they negotiated that potential hurdle with ease, and won’t fear Monaghan.
“We will get a game-plan ready to play Dublin but there is no bigger challenge in the game. This is a very, very competitive Division One.”