Down stun Monaghan to advance to Ulster final
DOWN 1-14 MONAGHAN 0-15
DOWN overcame the weight of history and the recent disparities in achievement between Monaghan and Down which suggested that Malachy O’Rourke’s men were outright favourites in the Ulster SFC semi-final in Armagh.
A 19-point hammering of Down last year in the Ulster quarter-final - Eamonn Burns’ first season as the Mourne county’s manager - underlined how far Monaghan had come since Down last beat them in the championship back in 2012.
Nobody outside Down gave the men in red and black much chance of preventing Monaghan from clinching an Ulster final place for the fourth time in five seasons, a run which included provincial titles in 2013 and 2015, and a defeat in 2014.
Such was the context in which the two sides matched up on a fine playing surface, but on a night in which the strong breeze had to be taken into consideration, particularly by free-takers on both sides.
Each county made two changes to the team published in the programme. Monaghan named Darren Hughes in place of Gavin Doogan, and Conor McCarthy instead of Dermot Malone.
Down’s Niall McParland came in for Anthony Doherty, and Peter Turley took Joe Murphy’s position.
Right from the start Down showed they were in no mood to let Monaghan parade their talents.
They played with speed and passion, and raw physicality, as Monaghan talisman Conor McManus found as he was fouled early by Niall McParland, who earned a yellow card for his transgression.
By half-time, Down went to the dressing rooms leading by 0-10 to 0-8.
Darragh O’Hanlon with 0-4, all from frees, and full forward Connaire Harrison with 0-3 were their top scorers.
For Monaghan it was a struggle all the way, but a couple of late points by Jack McCarron from a free and another via a spectacular high, long shot from McManus ensured that the Farney men rounded off the half on a positive note.
The first sub of the day was the referee, David Coldrick, who was injured. He was replaced for the second half Paddy Neilan of Roscommon.
Down struck the first blow, with a point from a 45 by goalkeeper Michael Cunningham in the 37th minute.
Within three minutes, Down had tacked on a point by Kevin McKernan and a goal from a penalty by Darragh O’Hanlon after Niall Donnelly was hauled down close to the Monaghan goal.
At 1-12 to 0-8, Down had the momentum and were worth their seven point lead.
That was down to four by the 60th minute after a Darragh O’Hanlon point moved them to 1-13, but three points from frees by McManus and one from play by Darren Hughes brought Monaghan to 0-12.
With seven minutes left a Jack McCarron free reduced the margin to three points as Monaghan launched a series of desperate attacks.
McManus slotted another point over in the sixth minute. Now they were two points adrift, and that was down to one with five minutes left when Kieran Hughes slammed over a brilliant score.
Then all hell broke loose in last minutes of normal time, as Monaghan fought like tigers to get on level terms but a couple of key missed chances left the Farney men vulnerable to a counter-attack, and in the dying seconds, substitute Donal O’Hare got the clinching point.
Down: M Cunningham (0-1, 45); N McParland, G McGovern, D O’Hagan; D O’Hanlon (1-5, pen,5f), C McGovern, C Mooney; K McKernan (0-2), N Donnelly; P Turley, C Maginn (0-1), S Millar (0-1); J Johnston, C Harrison (0-3), R Johnston
Subs: D O’Hare (0-1) for C Harrison (53); J Murphy for C McGovern (59) A Carr for P Turley (67); M Poland for R Johnston (67)
Monaghan – R Beggan; F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie (0-1) C Walsh, V Corey, N McAdam; K Hughes (0-1), K O’Connell; D Hughes (0-2), K Duffy, O Duffy (0-1); C McCarthy (0-1), J McCarron (0-3, 2f), C McManus (0-6, 3f)
Subs: R McAnespie for N McAdam (41); D Mone for K Duffy (47); D Ward for O Duffy (47); D Malone for C McCarthy (57); C Forde for R Beggan blood sub; (70); R Beggan for R Forde (73)
Ref: D Coldrick (Meath)