Monday 22 January 2018

Conor McManus saves Monaghan as Ulster enjoys replay bonanza

Donegal 1-11 Monaghan 0-14

Sean McGoldrick

Donegal and Monaghan will have to meet again next weekend after this Ulster semi-final ended all square at Kingspan Breffni Park.

A free from Conor McManus in the seventh minute of injury time tied up the contest after a fisted pointed from Christy Toye looked likely to give Donegal a place in the decider.

The key score was a 52nd minute goal from Odhrán McNiallais but Donegal could rue the fact that team captain Michael Murphy had an off day with his frees, missing four long-distance efforts.

The draw is a bonanza for the Ulster Council as last Sunday’s other semi-final between Tyrone and Cavan also finished level.

The floodlights were switched on before the throw-in even though there was no rain. Murphy won the throw-in and drove forward before linking up with Karl Lacey who pointed from the right after 15 seconds. But it wasn’t a portent of things to come as the game settled into a battle of attrition.

Donegal doubled their advantage after 10 minutes and it was a significant score from Murphy — his first ever from play in four clashes against Monaghan. Shane Carey finally opened Monaghan’s account with an 11th minute score before a Murphy free made it 0-3 to 0-1.

Donegal were content to leave Monaghan’s rapid-fire kick-outs uncontested as they pulled 13 men behind the ball with Lacey and Anthony Thompson sharing the sweeping duties.

Points from McManus (free) — after Eamon McGee needlessly picked the ball off the ground — and Carey tied up the scores at the end of the first quarter.

Monaghan’s ability to secure Donegal’s kick-out — they won five of Mark McGinley’s 13 first-half re-starts — gave them a platform and they continually targeted the left side of the Donegal defence. A second McManus free in the 22nd minute gave them the lead for the first time. They doubled their advantage with another McManus free four minutes later as Donegal’s discipline deserted them.

McManus was booked for a late challenge on Frank McGlynn and Patrick McBrearty kicked a free. The corner-forward then tied up the game five minutes before the break after a brilliant run from Eoin McHugh.

Murphy, who was enjoying his most productive performance against Monaghan since the series started, won a free after he was tackled late by Vinnie Corey and McBrearty nailed the free.

But at the other end, McGee gave away another scorable free after a foul on the lively McCarthy and McManus hit his fourth free of the half to tie up the scores at 0-6 each at the break. But the statistic which would concern Monaghan was that they kicked seven wides compared to three for Donegal which was a more accurate reflection than the scoreline on the exchanges.

After Murphy (free) and Owen Duffy exchanged early second-half points Donegal created the game’s first goal-scoring chance when they split the Monaghan defence and the excellent Thompson linked up with Gillespie who was through on goal.

But it was a case of the wrong player in the right position. The advancing Rory Beggan managed to smother his effort, at the expense of a 45, which Murphy missed. Turnovers were proving costly for Donegal; twice they surrendered the ball deep in Monaghan territory and were punished at the other end with points from McManus and Karl O’Connell, who added another after Murphy had missed his third long-range free of the half.

Donegal’s free-taking continued to haunt them with McBrearty missing a 35m free but he did make amends in the 50th minute with a point — though it could have been a goal.

By the midway point in the half Donegal had hit six wides compared to one for Monaghan and their woes continued when Martin McElhinney was shown a black card. He had already been booked so he couldn’t be replaced.

But they responded magnificently — a through ball from Martin O’Reilly found MacNiallais unmarked and he rolled the ball under Beggan for a crucial goal. A McCarthy free tied up the game before Colin Walshe was shown a black card when he pulled down Ryan McHugh. McBrearty’s resultant free gave Donegal back the lead and Eoin McHugh doubled their advantage with six minutes left.

But there was still plenty of drama in injury time. Two pointed frees from McManus levelling the game again before Donegal substitute Christy Toye fisted Donegal into the lead. But McManus had the final say when he pointed a free in the seventh minute of injury time after Thompson was penalised for a late tackle to tie up the scores one last time. The replay will be played next weekend.

Scorers — Donegal: P McBrearty 0-5 (4f), M Murphy 0-3 (2f), O MacNiallais 1-0, K Lacey, E McHugh, C Toye 0-1 each; Monaghan: C McManus 0-8 (7f), K O’Connell 0-2, S Carey, C McCarthy 0-2 (1f), O Duffy 0-1 each.

Donegal: MA McGinley; P McGrath,E McGee, C Gillespie; A Thompson, K Lacey, E McHugh; R Kavanagh, M McElhinny, R McHugh, O MacNiallais, F McGlynn; P McBrearty, M Murphy, M O’Reilly. M McHugh for McGlynn 65m, C Toye for Kavanagh 67m; E Gallagher for O’Reilly 76m

Monaghan: R Beggan; C Walshe, D Wylie, R Wylie; F Kelly, V Corey, K Duffy; K O’Connell, D Hughes; S Carey, O Duffy, R McAnespie; C McCarthy, K Hughes, C McManus. Subs: D Mone for D Wylie 58m; D McKenna for McCarthy 58m; C Boyle for Walshe (BC) 61m; J McCarron for Carey 65m, D Clerkin for McAnespie 71.

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).

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