17 June 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The draws for the first round of the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers has pitted Monaghan against Offaly. County team manager Eamonn McEneaney believes the draw could have been better but it could have been worse as well, writes KEVIN CARNEY
Monaghan senior football team-manager Eamonn McEneaney is cautiously optimistic that Offaly can be overcome in the the first round of the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers.
Last weekend’s draw has ordained that McEneaney and company will travel to O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Saturday, June 25th next to take on the Faithful county in a contest timed to commence at 7pm.
And while the Monaghan boss says that a home game in Clones would have been his dream ticket, he is happy that at least the identity and calibre of opposition to be faced has now been revealed:
“It’s good to know at this stage who we’re facing in the Qualifiers because there was any number of permutations which could have arisen.
“We would have been happier with a home draw no matter who was drawn against us but, at the end of the day, after we’ve travelled down to Tullamore, we’re faced with the same size of pitch, the same rules and up against 15 other footballers so when the whistle goes, the venue really shouldn’t come into it.
“Either way,I felt going into the draw that we were capable of beating any of our possible opponents if we could build on the more positive aspects of our display against Tyrone and raise our game that bit more into the bargain.”
Although utterly respectful of Offaly football and the sheer unpredictability of championship football – as evidenced by Carlow’s victory over Louth last weekend – the former Castleblayney and county ace admits that the draw was “reasonably kind” to the Oriel.
Offaly played in division three of this year’s national league – as opposed to Monaghan’s division one habitat – and won just four out of their seven games.
Their failure to achieve promotion to division two and in the wake of the Leinster county’s 0-8 to 2-16 humbling by Wexford in their provincial championship opening round game, it is likely that the midland county will go into the June 25th encounter as underdogs to advance to the second round of the Qualifiers.
Offaly will hardly fear their visitors to Tullamore though, especially considering Monaghan’s relegation this year from division one of the national league and their disappointing 1-11 to 1-13 defeat to Tyrone in the Ulster SFC on June 5th last.
“I think ourselves and Offaly, and all the teams who got beaten first time out in the championship, will go out the next day with the objective of improving on their first round provincial championship performance,” McEneaney opined.
“Like Monaghan, Offaly is a proud county and their players will be out to make amends for what happened in their game against Wexford.
“I saw that game and Offaly had umpteen chances for goals but didn’t take any of them. The final scoreline didn’t reflect the nature of the play and Jason Ryan (Wexford manager) said as much afterwards.” Predictably, the Monaghan supremo is wont to talk up the opposition. He suggests the Faithful county just had one of those days against the Model county last time out.
“Traditionally not too many Offaly teams are on the end of a 14 point championship defeat but, as I say, that scoreline slightly flattered Wexford.
“Offaly were caught badly at the back at different times and Wexford’s forwards exposed them in clinical fashion.
“People might have been surprised by the margin that Offaly lost by but Wexford went ahead and proved their win was no fluke by getting the better of Westmeath last weekend.
“Wexford are a much improved team and they’ve an awful lot going for them so Offaly were always going to have it difficult against them.
“People forget that Offaly ran Down close in the championship last year so they had some good championship form to fall back on.”
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