Monaghan summon emphatic second half display to blow past Down
Monaghan 2-22 0-09 Down
Monaghan scored 1-08 without reply in a devastating second-half spell to easily overcome the challenge of Down on a warm afternoon in Clones.
The final margin of victory (19 points) will do nothing to silence those who believe the GAA should implement a two-tier Championship structure after a particularly uninspiring start to this year's football Championship.
Down actually began the game brightly and built a 0-4 to 0-2 lead early on, with Darragh O'Hanlon nailing two long-range frees. Monaghan responded with two straightforward Conor McManus frees before Shane Carey kicked them in front.
Mark Poland weaved his way through the Monaghan defence to draw Down level but their defence then conceded another needless free, allowing McManus to restore the hosts' one-point advantage.
Down's Conor McGinn kicked a fine leveller with the outside of his boot but that was as good as it got for the visitors in the first half as Monaghan kicked the last three points to lead by three (0-9 to 0-6) at the break.
The half-time scoreline was harsh on Down who had competed well in open play but crucially they struggled to win their own kick-outs and conceded too many needless frees.
Down needed a fast start in the second half and they threatened to produce it when substitute Donal O'Hare reduced the deficit to two points.
Little did their followers know that they would have to wait 25 minutes until Down's next score and by that stage the match was well and truly over.
Incredibly, Monaghan scored 1-08 without reply as the visitors offered little or no resistance. Ryan McAnespie restored their three-point lead before Down saw midfielder Peter Turley black carded for dragging down Dessie Mone
Turley was badly missed as the hosts took a firm grip on proceedings with quick-fire points from McManus, Karl O'Connell and Conor McCarthy putting them six points in front.
McCarthy added another free before goalkeeper Rory Beggan casually stroked a long-range free over the bar to stretch Monaghan's lead (0-15 to 0-7).
Beggan scored his second free before Kieran Hughes got the game's first goal, burying a left-footed effort into the corner of the net (1-16 to 0-7).
McManus scored his seventh point of the match to put Monaghan 13 points in front before Down finally ended their scoring drought in the 63rd minute when O'Hare pointed.
Both sides traded points before Eoin Duffy side-footed Monaghan's second goal to the net.
The rest of the match was hard to watch as Monaghan strolled through the Down defence time after time and the final winning margin of 19 points was embarrassing for Down's players, management and supporters alike.