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Farney edge low-score bore as Donegal fail to muster point from play

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Monaghan's Dermot Malone looks for a pass as he is closed down by Paddy McGrath

Monaghan's Dermot Malone looks for a pass as he is closed down by Paddy McGrath

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Monaghan’s Darren Hughes keeps the pressure on Donegal’s Karl Lacey during their game in Letterkenny

Monaghan’s Darren Hughes keeps the pressure on Donegal’s Karl Lacey during their game in Letterkenny

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Monaghan's Neil McAdam is held up by Daniel McLaughlin, Donegal

Monaghan's Neil McAdam is held up by Daniel McLaughlin, Donegal

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Monaghan's Dermot Malone breaks through a challenge from Eoin McHugh, Donegal

Monaghan's Dermot Malone breaks through a challenge from Eoin McHugh, Donegal

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Donegal's Neil Gallagher and Monaghan's Neil McAdam challenge for the ball

Donegal's Neil Gallagher and Monaghan's Neil McAdam challenge for the ball

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Monaghan's Dermot Malone looks for a pass as he is closed down by Paddy McGrath

IT certainly won't go down as one of their more memorable matches.

Late points from Rory Beggan Fintan Kelly saw Monaghan defeat Ulster champions Donegal at Letterkenny on a day when the insipid hosts scored just 1-1 from the tenth minute.

Rory Gallagher's team looked to have shaken their heads clear when Michael Murphy flicked home a goal in the 45th minute. It was Donegal's only score of the second half, and their only one from play in the whole game, and Monaghan took full advantage.

"When we got the goal, we were in an ideal position to push on," Gallagher said.

"It was like an epidemic throughout the game - we were being turned over, we weren't hurting them at all.

"Monaghan took over and it's not good enough to score 1-4 and not even get a point from play.

"We just couldn't get through Monaghan. We were too lateral and conservative the way we played the game. Monaghan's tails were up and they deserved their win. They were the more intense team.

"We couldn't get to the pitch of the battle and we're very disappointed with that.

"It was tit-for-tat and four each wouldn't have been a bad place to be at half-time. That second-half display just wasn't good enough."

The goal livened up what had been a drab affair - the frustration of supporters in the stands was clear for long spells, with Donegal forced to go back-and-forth without being able to make significant inroads.

The home side raced into an early three-point lead with Murphy on the mark twice from frees and Patrick McBrearty also sending over a free.

Frees were the order of the day, but Kieran Hughes opened Monaghan's account with a neat point from play on 12 minutes.

The returning Conor McManus and Paul Finlay posted to draw the Farney county level, but they were dealt a blow when McManus was black-carded for his part in an off-the-ball tangle with Neil McGee.

Donegal were scoreless for 25 minutes until they regained their advantage through a Murphy free in the final minute of the half, but Finlay evened the scales again in stoppage-time with a close-range free.

Monaghan led for the first time when Dermot Malone drilled over, only for Murphy to take the wind from their sails when he rose to steer Neil Gallagher's long ball to the net.

That score failed to galvanise the off-colour hosts, though. Monaghan finished the better with Finlay (two frees), Beggan and Kelly on the mark.

Defeat leaves Donegal in a pickle ahead of a trip to Tralee for a rematch of last year's All-Ireland final.

Gallagher said: "I'm not even sure if one win would keep us up now because the table just hasn't taken shape at all. We just have to lick our wounds this week. It's not a nice place to be. We'll just to look at the tape and evaluate where we're at. We have to put this to bed and move forward."

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke was thrilled to see his side return to winning ways.

He said: "We were delighted with the character they showed today, the way they've bounced back from last week and now we have to get the same again next weekend.

"We were delighted with the character they showed today, the way they've bounced back from last week and now we have to get the same again.

"A defeat today and we'd have looked in relegation trouble, but now there are a lot of teams around the same number of points so it's all to play for."

Man of the Match: Drew Wylie (Monaghan)

Scorers - Monaghan: P Finlay 0-4fs, K Hughes, C McManus (f), R Beggan (f), D Malone, F Kelly 0-1 each. Donegal: M Murphy 1-3 (0-3fs), P McBrearty 0-1f.

Donegal - P Durcan 6; P McGrath 7, N McGee 6, E Doherty 6; E McGee 6, K Lacey 6, F McGlynn 6; N Gallagher 6, C Toye 6; M O'Reilly 6, O MacNiallais 6, R McHugh 6; P McBrearty 5, M Murphy 7, M McHugh 6. Subs: M McElhinney 6 for Toye (h-t), A Thompson 6 for Doherty (h-t), C McFadden 5 for Lacey (37), D McLaughlin 5 for McBrearty (54), E McHugh 5 for E McGee (54).

Monaghan - R Beggan 7; C Boyle, D Wylie 8, V Corey 7; D Mone 7, F Kelly 7, K O'Connell 6; D Hughes 8, P Finlay 7; N McAdam 7, D Malone 7, R McAnespie 7; C McManus 5, K Hughes 8, D McKenna 6. Subs: T Kerr 7 for McManus (BC, 25), O Duffy 7 for McKenna (47), D Clerkin 5 for McAdam (67).

Ref - P Hughes (Armagh).

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