Monaghan kick ten unanswered points to see off Fermanagh after strong second half showing
Monaghan 1-20 Fermanagh 1-11
Monaghan advanced to the quarter final of the Ulster championship when, as expected, they comfortably overcame the challenge of relegated Fermanagh in the first game in the 2017 Ulster championship.
The league had ended on a disappointing note for both sides – albeit at different levels.
Fermanagh threw away a commanding lead at home and lost to Derry, a result which condemned them to Division 3 football next season while Monaghan's late home fade-out against Dublin cost them a place in the Division 1 final.
It wasn't until the third quarter that they exerted their dominance in this contest but when they did it was total as they kicked ten points on the spin to ease their way into the last eight.
Conor McManus – who was involved in a controversial clash with Ryan McCluskey just before half time – top scored for Malachy O'Rourke's side with a 1-3 contribution while second half substitute Owen Duffy kicked three points and 13 Monaghan players registered scores
Predictably, the two sides played to type, putting 13 men behind the ball when they lost possession, which meant that most of the football produced in the first half was utterly forgettable. Nonetheless, there was no shortage of incidents – most of them tinged with controversy.
Monaghan's Kieran Hughes, who had kicked his side's opening score after 4 minutes, only lasted four more minutes – black carded for blocking a run by Fermanagh's Ryan Lyons. And there were two other Monaghan players who were decidedly fortunate to stay on the field.
His replacement Ryan McAnespie pulled down Tomas Corrigan, who had beaten the Monaghan cover after picking up a loose defensive clearance but inexplicably other than awarding a free, referee Derek O'Mahoney kept his cards in his pocket.
But the most controversial incident occurred at the end of the half when Conor McManus and Ryan McCluskey tangled in front on the stand and as McManus raced away his foot made contact with a prostrate McCloskey.
But having consulted with linesman Paul Faloon the referee opted to take no action. But it will be interesting to see whether the Central Competitions Control Committee take a similarly benign view of the incident.
Not surprisingly given that the blanket defence featured at both ends of the field, scoring was at a premium – though the first half did produce two goals. Right from the off Monaghan pressed up on Thomas Treacy's kickouts.
The tactic yielded a handsome reward in the 14th minute when Treacy's attempted short re-start was intercepted by Jack McCarron, who linked up with McManus and he found the net to put his side 1-3 to 0-3 ahead.
But Fermanagh responded positively and hit back in the 21st minute when they finally found a chink in Monaghan's fortress like defence. A quick pop pass from Conor Murphy put Paul McCusker in space on the right flank and he linked up with Ryan Lyons, who blasted past Rory Beggan. It was the first goal Fermanagh had scored since the opening round of the League.
Inspired by the outstanding Eoin Donnelly, Fermanagh enjoyed a purple patch and took the lead through a Lee Cullen point. Monaghan hit the next two points before Fermanagh drew level but they coughed up two soft frees in injury time which McCarron and McManus converted to give the Division 1side a flattering 1-8 to 1-6 lead at the break.
The skies darkened at the start of the second half but the game actually opened up. The Fermanagh goal led a charmed existence in the third quarter when initially Thomas Treacy brilliantly saved a pile driver from Conor McCarthy but later pulled down Monaghan substitute Eoin Duffy and in the ensuing scramble a back heel from Vinny Corry was hacked clear.
Even though a Sean Quigley point narrowed the gap to a single point again Monaghan gradually asserted their dominance with ten points on the spin – including a peach of a score from Jack McCarron and three from Duffy as the underdogs' defensive system fell asunder.
Indeed, such was Monaghan's dominance that Fermanagh failed to score for 23 minutes and were outscored 12-5 in the second half.
The official attendance was 7,473.
Monaghan: R Beggan; F Kelly (0-1), D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walshe (0-2), V Corey, K O'Connell (0-1), K Hughes (0-1), N McAdam (0-1); G Doogan (0-1), S Carey (0-1), D Ward; C McCarthy (0-2), J McCarron (0-2 ,1f), C McManus (1-3 1f). Subs: R McAnespie for Hughes (BC) 8m; E Duffy (0-3) for Carey 42m; D Malone (0-1) for Ward 49m; K Duffy for Corey 58m; D Mone (0-1) for Kelly 63m, M Bannigan for McCarthy 68m.
Fermanagh: T Treacy; M Jones, C Cullen, C McManus; A Breen (0-2), R McCluskey; C Murphy; E Donnelly, L Cullen (0-1); B Mulrone, R Lyons (1-0) P McCusker; K Connor, S Quigley (0-2, 1f), T Corrigan (0-5, 4f). Subs R Jones for Connor 49m, E Courtney (0-1) for Quigley 54m; C Beacon for Lyons 58m; D Keenan for McCusker.
Referee: Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary)