By Shaun Casey
LOOKING back on 2021, Monaghan will surely be filled with regret after watching Tyrone storm to a fourth All-Ireland title. The Farney men put up a brave fight in the Ulster showpiece, but eventually lost out by the minimum of margins.
Seamus McEnaney’s men will perhaps take heart from that tie, but no medals are handed out for morale victories. 2022 offers a clean slate and ‘Banty’ has added some youth to
his team and experience to the sideline in the hope of pushing on this season.
Dermot Malone has stepped away from the inter-county scene following 12 years of service, but McEnaney can call upon the rest of his 2021 panel.
Several of last season’s u-20 squad, that lost the Ulster final to Down 3-15 to 1-14 after extra time, have been added to the senior set-up.
Darragh McElearney, Monaghan’s goal-scorer from that provincial decider, along with Ronan Grimes will bolster the side’s defensive options. Oram forward Jason Irwin has also earned a call up as well as stylish Eire Og attacker Conor Leonard.
Perhaps the most impressive addition is in the management team, with Liam Sheedy being recruited as a performance coach.
Tipperary’s former hurling manager, and two-time All-Ireland winning boss, will accompany Donie Buckley in the management team.
The season begins on Friday evening when the Oriel county travel to Owenbeg to take on Derry in the first round of the McKenna Cup.
They face Fermanagh in the second round, with that game taking place just three days after the competition begins.
Monaghan will be aiming for a place in the McKenna Cup decider, having lost out during the 2020 season with Tyrone once again coming out on top, 0-11 to 1-5.
McEnaney may look to give the newbies some game time as well, with all preparation aiming towards a good league campaign.
A last-minute Jack McCarron score against Galway saved Monaghan from relegation last season and secured their eight successive year in the top tier.
Their Division One campaign begins with an away date against Tyrone while they’ll also face Ulster rivals Armagh and Donegal. Kerry, Mayo, Dublin and Kildare offer huge opposition as well, but Monaghan have shown their worth at this level before.
McEnaney will hope the learnings and pain from last season can drive his side on, with keeping their spot in the top division surely a priority.