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Clontibret boss calls for shorter league

CLONTIBRET manager John McEntee feels that the Monaghan County Board must look at ways of shortening the league season.

The O’Neill’s sit proudly at the top of the Senior League with seven wins and a draw from their first eight games, but the Crossmaglen legend is concerned that they are still only in the first half of the campaign as his side prepares to travel to Inniskeen on Friday evening.

“It’s a high standard league and it’s very competitive but if anything, it goes on too long,” said McEntee.

“There is a top four play-off after 18 matches compared to the 14 games they have in Armagh.

“For me, it’s too long. A lot of the teams have a first team and a second team so a lot of players play B football as well as senior football.

“That’s an awful lot of games and not an awful lot of time to prepare or to work on different things.

“If you were asking me for a recommendation then I would say that Monaghan need to revise their league structure a bit.

“It would be to benefit the players and to give them the best chance.

“Take Scotstown for example. They have won the last few Monaghan Championships but because of the number of matches in the league and championship at that time of year, they don’t do as well in Ulster as they should.

“Scotstown are without doubt one of the best teams in Ulster. They were unfortunate against us, Crossmaglen, in an Ulster final (2015) but in other years they didn’t show as well as they should have.

“I think that a lot of it has to do with the high volume of matches around that time of the year, it doesn’t give them the best opportunity to prepare.”

If Clontibret keep performing like they are, then it’s a problem they could very well be facing themselves later in the season, albeit one that they would gladly welcome.

At this stage of the season last year, McEntee’s men had already lost six times and indeed they only managed seven wins in 18 games and needed a last-day victory to avoid the drop to intermediate football.

The manager doesn’t feel that there has been any magical cure, but does feel that familiarity has played a key role in their progress to date this term.

“It’s hard to put your finger on,” McEntee continued. “Last year we didn’t start until later in the year and therefore we were never really fit.

“We had a lot of fellas carrying injuries last year and added to that we had a number of fellas, through retirement or choice, that didn’t play football last year.

“We have a bigger pool of players this year, a lot of younger fellas have joined the squad and that helps at training.

“Last year they were great guys, this year they’re great guys. That part hasn’t changed, they’re putting the effort in.

“I suppose it’s difficult to play and train when you have lesser numbers and that’s not such an issue this season. Maybe they’ve gotten to know me a bit better and I’ve gotten to know them better too.”

Inniskeen completed a league double over Clontibret last year and McEntee has been impressed by their development in recent seasons, particularly their young livewire attack.

The Grattan’s hit a mid-season speed-bump as they lost four games in succession, but they have bounced back with fine wins over Ballybay and Latton in recent weeks.

The latter of those, a 1-15 to 0-9 win in Latton, was particularly impressive as they held their opponents to just three second-half points.

Elsewhere, tomorrow night, second-placed Carrickmacross will host Scotstown, holders Truagh will be at home against Latton while the two bottom teams meet as Castleblayney welcome basement club Currin.

n.mccoy@gaeliclife.com

The BBC documentary about Crossmaglen showed how the team was shaped by tradition.

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