Not really a highlight, but this was a big talking point of Monaghan’s season. They weren’t the only ones that broke the rules and held training during Level 5 lockdown, Dublin famously did likewise.
Monaghan paid their price. The Farney men lost home advantage in their league opener against Armagh, which ended in defeat in Brewster Park and almost led to their relegation. Manager Seamus McEnaney also served a 12-week ban from the touchline.
The Monaghan County Board got out ahead of the GAA and following an internal investigation, they suspended McEnaney. It was all messy business, but Monaghan remained in the top tier following a win over Galway on the final day of the season.
Monaghan’s presence in the top tier almost came to an end in Clones as Galway came to town in the hope of sending the Farney County tumbling down to Division Two.
Padraic Joyce’s men led for long periods, but the sides couldn’t be separated during an enthralling 70 minutes of action. Extra time was required after a Darren Hughes goal and a Conor McManus point brought the sides level.
Jack McCarron stood up when his side needed a hero and his huge, long-range effort capped off a superb performance from the ace attacker as he finished with a personal tally of 0-7.
The third weekend in July will be remembered in Monaghan for a long time, but for off the field reasons.
The Monaghan under 20s had just reached the Ulster final on the Friday evening, while the seniors did likewise the following day.
However, in the intervening hours, the County learned that their under 20 captain Brendan Og Duffy had lost is life in a tragic car accident travelling home from the game.
There was a sombre atmosphere in Pairc Esler as Seamus McEnaney’s men took on Armagh, on a day when the result didn’t really seem to matter much.
The Monaghan boss, who managed Duffy at minor level, spoke highly of the young man and gave a fitting tribute to reporters after the game.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen a coach switch codes in a ‘Performance Coach’ role. Oisin McConville was involved with the Laois hurlers while Kieran Donaghy held a similar position for the Galway hurlers.
Liam Sheedy, a two-time All-Ireland winning hurling manager with Tipperary, will join Donie Buckley as part of Seamus McEnaney’s management team.
Sheedy stepped away from the Premier County after their All-Ireland quarter final defeat to Waterford. Next season he’ll hope to give Monaghan that extra inch to get over the line, after they lost by just one point to eventual All-Ireland champions Tyrone in the Ulster final.
After 15 years of unbroken service to the Monaghan cause, Emyvale native Ciara McAnespie decided to hang up the boots. The star forward won three All-Stars and appeared in three All-Ireland finals for the Farney ladies in a stellar career, that also yielded six Ulster titles.
It was fitting that McAnespie’s final act in the Monaghan jersey was a game-winning goal against Cavan that ensured her side wouldn’t be dragged into a relegation battle. That goal saw Monaghan remain in the Senior Championship for an incredible 30th straight year.
Monaghan’s loss will be Emyvale’s gain as the sharpshooter will remain in action at club level, but there will be a big hole left in that Monaghan attack that will be tough to replace. McAnespie’s twin sister Aoife, also decided to step away from the county game recently.