Thursday 23 November 2017

Monaghan joy as football heroes hit the bullseye

Monaghan girl Aoibhinn McMahon (9 and her cousin Daith McMahon (7), from Ballybofey, Co Donegal
Monaghan girl Aoibhinn McMahon (9 and her cousin Daith McMahon (7), from Ballybofey, Co Donegal
Pajo the calf with owner Alan Sheridan
Oisin Mullen (4), from Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, on the shoulders of his dad Paddy

Louise Hogan and Elaine Keogh

ONE pitch invasion just wasn't enough. Instead there were two as Monaghan finally delivered a long-awaited fairytale finish.

The stalwarts filing through the gates could feel it in their bones after first the ladies, then the minors took home the titles.

Then, after 25 years in the shadows, the Monaghan 'underdogs' stepped up to land their first Ulster title since 1988 as they turned over the All-Ireland champions Donegal.

For former Monaghan great Nudie Hughes, it was an almost fairytale finish, as some of the former players had attended the game at St Tiernach's Park in Clones to mark the 25th anniversary of their Ulster title win.

There was a rollercoaster of emotions etched on the face of fans as they witnessed their side deliver a shock 0-13 to 07 victory over Donegal.

"Tears were starting to run down the cheeks," said Hughes, referring to the moment when the Anglo-Celt cup was handed to beaming Monaghan captain Owen Lennon.

Man-of-the-match Kieran Hughes echoed the raw emotion of the fans invading the pitch for the second time in one day. "It's hard to describe, it's unbelievable," he said.

Monaghan fan comedian Oliver Callan was richer in soul and pocket after a €20 gamble at 6-1 paid off.

"It is unbelievable stuff," said RTE's 'Nob Nation' star. "I've never seen Monaghan win the Ulster title – I was only seven when they won it last."

In a tongue-in-cheek take on the old saying that "There'll be no cows milked", comic Callan joked there would not be a "gallon of diesel washed" for weeks in the so-called 'Bandit County'.

Fans had also been on the edge of their seats as Monaghan took the Ulster minor title for the first time since 1945 with a 4-10 to 2-14 win over Tyrone.

Simmental bull calf Pajo – who became an online celebrity when a picture of him eating a boiled egg for breakfast went viral – had been touted as a talisman for the team.

"Pajo brought them the luck they needed," shouted his owner Alan Sheridan (21) over the sound of cheering Monaghan fans.

He dressed the calf in a Monaghan jersey, shorts and socks before kick off and then he headed to Clones to watch the final while Pajo watched the match on a big screen erected at his local GAA club at Aughnamullen, outside Castleblayney.

As Mr Sheridan prepared to hit the town last night to celebrate the win, he dubbed Pajo the "wonder calf".

An hour after the referee blew the whistle, raucous fans could still be heard singing around the stadium as vice-chairman of Monaghan GAA Padraig Sherry tried to round them up to head for home.

Irish Independent

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