Monday 18 December 2017

Monaghan stun Donegal

Farney ruin champions' hat-trick bid to end 25-year wait for Ulster title

Monaghan captain Owen Lennon celebrates at the final whistle after defeating Donegal in yesterday's Donegal in yesterday's Ulster SFC final. Inset: Lennon lifts the Anglo-Celt cup
Monaghan captain Owen Lennon celebrates at the final whistle after defeating Donegal in yesterday's Donegal in yesterday's Ulster SFC final. Inset: Lennon lifts the Anglo-Celt cup
Cillian O'Connor will return for Mayo on Sunday against Donegal
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

A summer of provincial landmarks continued in Clones as Monaghan landed their first Ulster football title for 25 years amid jubilant scenes.

Following on from the novelty of success for the Dublin and Limerick hurlers, thousands thronged St Tiernach's Park to watch Monaghan captain Owen Lennon raise the Anglo-Celt Cup.

It was a moment few thought possible against a Donegal side bidding for an 11th consecutive Ulster championship win under Jim McGuinness and a third consecutive Ulster title.

To cap a wonderful day for the county they also landed their first-ever minor/senior double, as Frank Brady's minor team claimed their first Ulster title since 1945.

Donegal were out of sorts and now face a challenge to put their championship campaign back on track with a qualifier against Laois next weekend.

If it is fixed for Saturday they will have six days to prepare and, with the history of just one team beating that six-day turnaround, (Down against Tipperary last year), it is a sizable task. They may also have to do it without Mark McHugh who was taken to hospital last night for a precautionary check-up

But the day belonged to Monaghan – a team that has overcome so many blows to finally succeed. Last year they wasted a glorious chance to reach an Ulster final when they blew a nine-point lead in a semi-final against Down. And forward Conor McManus admitted it was the lowest point for this team.

"It was a distant dream at that stage, there is no point saying anything else. Walking off the field against Down in the semi-final last year was a particularly low spot.

"But from the start of the year, once we got training and got our heads down you could see it in every man's eyes, you could see it in the dressing-room that we were capable of this. Our performance just showed that we are made of pure metal."

Donegal's All-Ireland odds have gone out from 4/1 to 9/1, while Mayo have been shortened to 10/3 after winning the Connacht title for a third successive year for the first time since 1950.

They beat London by 16 points in Castlebar on a day when an early goal by Alan Freeman set them on their way. More significantly for the championship ahead, was the return from injury of Cillian O'Connor (pictured left), who scored a hat-trick of goals off the bench.

A crowd of 21,274 turned out in MacHale Park as London competed in the Connacht final for the first time.

The Exiles return to action next weekend when they play Cavan in a Round 4 qualifier.

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