Monaghan stay strong to foil plucky Down comeback
Monaghan 0-13 Down 0-11
Monaghan made it two wins from two when they held out in a frenetic finish to this pulsating contest in bitterly cold, wet and greasy conditions in Clones.
Down were a vastly improved side from their first outing against Donegal, even though they had to make five changes in personnel due to injuries and suspensions.
Despite that they hit the ground running, putting in a bright start to dominate the opening quarter at the end of which they led by five points to three, thanks to Connaire Harrison with three (two from frees) and Daragh O'Hanlon.
Monaghan were struggling particularly around midfield.
The home side improved considerably in the second quarter and in a purple patch between the 17th and 24th minutes they turned the game around, hitting six points without reply, from Conor McManus (two), Ryan McAnespie, Thomas Kerr, Dermot Malone and Owen Duffy.
Down pulled back a point through Shay McArdle but Monaghan finished the half with an excellent score from Fintan Kelly to leave it 0-9 to 0-6 at the break.
On the resumption, Monaghan picked up where they had left off and by the 13th minute they had extended their lead to five points thanks to Shane Carey and an excellent strike from McAnespie.
An exchange of points between O'Hanlon (from a free) and Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan (a '45') kept the margin at five points, and the hosts looked well in control.
From there to the finish though, they were fighting a rearguard action as a resurgent Down carried the game to them and punished them for a number of errors.
Points by O'Hanlon and substitute Paddy Downey, with his first touch, brought the margin down to three points entering the final 10 minutes but Monaghan still looked reasonably comfortable when substitute Daniel McKenna pushed them four clear with five minutes of normal time remaining.
That, though, was to be Monaghan's final score as Down now threw everything into attack and pushed them to the limit with points by substitute Mark McKay and Harrison bringing the margin down to two, two minutes into the seven minutes of stoppage-time that were announced.
McManus spurned a chance from a free to push Monaghan three clear, while at the other end Harrison was off target from a routine free that would have reduced the margin to the minimum and left for an even more nervous finish for the home side than it was.
Man of the match: Ryan McAnespie
Scorers - Monaghan: R McAnespie, S Carey, O Duffy, C McManus (1f) 0-2 each, R Beggan ('45), F Kelly, D Malone, T Kerr, D McKenna 0-1 each. Down: C Harrison 0-4 (3fs), D O'Hanlon 0-3 (1f), S McArdle 0-2, M McKay, P Downey 0-1 each.
Monaghan - R Beggan 6, C Walshe 7, C Boyle 6, D Wylie 6, R McAnespie 7, K Duffy 7, F Kelly 7, N McAdam 6, D Hughes 6, K O'Connell 7, D Malone 7, T Kerr 7, S Carey 7, O Duffy 6, C McManus 7. Subs: R Wylie 5 for C Boyle (48), D McKenna 7 for O Duffy (55), K Hughes 5 for K O'Connell (56), S Gollogly 5 for D Malone (65), D Mone 5 for F Kelly (74).
Down- S Kane 6, R Boyle 6, G McGovern 5, M Magee 5, M Hughes 6, A Carr 7, D O'Hanlon 7, P Turley 7, H Brown 6, J Murphy 6, M Poland 7, K McKernan 7, C McGovern 6, C Harrison 8, S McArdle 7. Subs: S Dornan 6 for M Poland (40), P Downey 7 for S McArdle (56), L Howard 6 for M Hughes (57), R Mallon 6 for J Murphy (63), M McKay 6 for P Turley (66).
Ref - C Reilly (Meath).