Clontibret earn second bite
The hooter system which was parked by the GAA's Central Council on Saturday last would have come in useful in Pairc Grattan, Inniskeen for this collision.
With seven seconds of normal time still remaining, referee Dermot Boylan played it safe by bringing matters to a conclusion and sending Monaghan's showpiece day to a replay for the first time in eight years.
The time issue was a surprise, given that three substitutions had been made and there was at least one lengthy injury in the second half.
But Boylan had been reluctant with some of his decision-making as the match increased in tempo in the last quarter with both sides striving valiantly for the victory, so perhaps his call to blow early was in keeping with that policy.
A draw was arguably the fairest result, a point Clontibret manager Declan Brennan did not appear to agree with afterwards. "We should have won the game," declared Brennan.
"We were a wee bit lethargic. We just didn't play as well as we would have liked, but in saying that we've had four or five fellas that were coming back from long-term injuries and they just weren't up to speed, but I'd like to think that will stand to them in the week ahead."
Clontibret are the reigning champions and have twice beaten Magheracloone in recent county finals. The last drawn Monaghan final in 2002 was between these teams, when Clontibret eventually prevailed.
Clontibret would have expected to defend their title successfully and progress in Ulster. In that sense this was a setback, but one which they will be confident of rectifying quickly.
Had there been two or three minutes of additional time Magheracloone may just have had the edge, but their manager Ciaran Conlan didn't make it a major issue.
"I would have thought there would be injury-time," he said. "It appeared that he was afraid to blow the whistle for frees or anything at the end. There were a lot of frees that could have been given to both teams in the last five or 10 minutes whereas earlier in the game he blew far earlier.
"The referee has a tough job. I would hate to be out there refereeing a county final with two sides baying for your blood. His job is hard enough. I am not going to criticise him for anything more than that."
Tommy Freeman was in scintillating form and the wonder was that Clontibret did not give him the due respect by playing an extra man, possibly half-forward Dessie Mone, in front of him.
As it was, everything went through Freeman and with a nice pocket of space in front of him, danger always lurked when he had possession. He had help. Fintan Kindlon and Paul Jones were prominent in the first half, Damien Freeman dropped back to good effect throughout and for a long spell in the first half Gavin and Francie Doogan were virtually untouchable at midfield.
After conceding the first two points, Magheracloone, champions just once before in 2004, landed the next four as Freeman quickly burned off Colm Greenan, and by the 18th minute half-back Peter Tuite had surged forward to put them 0-6 to 0-3 clear.
Inevitably, Conor McManus was Clontibret's chief source of scores, but Fergal Mone and Vinny Corey were also productive and after getting level, at 0-7 each, they struck for a wonderful goal to carry a 1-7 to 0-7 lead in at the break.
As an example of teamwork it was exemplary, the move starting from their own full-back line and passing through six sets of hands, with JP Mone and Corey making the most incisive interventions for Fergal Mone to apply the coup de grace.
Still the match didn't ignite until the last quarter. Up to that point Clontibret had been playing within themselves, reluctant to push on when they might have done.
For that, the spine of Magheracloone's defence, Peter and James Ward, can take credit. Clontibret led by four points just after the break through Fergal Mone, but Freeman (two) and Jones reduced the gap to the minimum before a McManus free pushed it out to two again.
Corey could have put it beyond recall when a shot skimmed off an upright and just when it looked like Magheracloone needed a goal they got it, Freeman judging the flight of Francie Doogan's delivery to perfection and filing away one of his trademark finishes.
Clontibret may claim he delivered the gentlest of nudges in claiming possession, but having penalised him for something similar earlier, Boylan gave Freeman the benefit of any doubt.
There was a twist in the tale too when Magheracloone lost their goalkeeper, the county custodian Shane Duffy, with a recurrence of the injury that has bothered him for most of the season -- early in the second half.
Clearly struggling with the distance he was getting from his kick-outs after aggravating his hip/quad problem, Duffy was hauled ashore and replaced by Padraig Doogan.
Doogan was in thick of the action in the 47th minute when Boylan awarded Clontibret a dubious penalty when Fergal Mone was surrounded by black and white shirts and brought to ground. McManus struck the subsequent penalty well but Doogan got a touch, it came off an upright and rebounded away.
McManus eventually got Clontibret level and both sides will be feel relieved and frustrated in equal measures. The replay will take place next Sunday afternoon in Inniskeen again at a time to be decided.
Scorers -- Clontibret: C McManus 0-7 (0-5f, 0-1 '45), F Mone 1-1, R Gorman, D Mone 0-1 each. Magheracloone:T Freeman 1-4 (0-1f), P Jones 0-2, F Kindlon, P Tuite, P Finnegan, J Hand (0-1f) 0-1 each.
Clontibret -- P McElroy; C Duffy, C Greenan, M Corey; D Mooney, J P Mone, P McGuigan; A Rooney, E Greenan; P Boyle, C McManus, D Mone; F Mone, V Corey, R Gorman. Subs: B Og Magennis for Boyle (28).
Magheracloone -- S Duffy; N Babbington, P Ward, M Jones; P Tuite, J Ward, P Farnan; F Doogan, G Doogan; F Kindlon, P Jones, D Freeman; J Hand, T Freeman, P Finnegan. Subs: P Doogan for Duffy (34), N Tuite for Babbington (45), K Gilsenan for Kindlon (54).
Ref -- D Boylan (Killanny)