Farney through but tougher tasks ahead
Monaghan 1-19 Leitrim 0-9
In the end Monaghan had no trouble accounting for Leitrim at a roasting hot Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, but after a second qualifier win over Division 4 opposition, just how threatening will Malachy O'Rourke's side be in the weeks to come?
Either Roscommon, Laois or Cork await in Monday morning's draw - they cannot face Fermanagh after exiting the Ulster Championship to Rory Gallagher's side - but with just 70 minutes separating them from a spot in the Super 8, no team will want to draw Monaghan.
So often it has been Conor McManus who has shone brightest for Monaghan, but yesterday it was Conor McCarthy who caught the eye for the Farney county. His three first-half points were crucial as they opened a six-point interval advantage after a porous defensive display at times, while his 69th-minute goal was the icing on the cake of a game that had long since lost its bite.
"I am not so sure what it tells me," said O'Rourke. "We would have been expected to beat both teams, we did beat them. Last week was a bit more comfortable than this week. But then again that has a lot to do with Leitrim."
After the game Leitrim manager Brendan Guckian said he would take some time to assess if he would seek an extension of his two-year term as manager, which ended with this defeat, but after winning two championship games - in New York and last week against Louth - progress has certainly been made.
"We need to keep the group together going forward, it's very important for Leitrim that they do that," said Guckian.
"Officially, my two-year term has come to an end so I have to take time out and consider. But I just said to the players regardless of what happens it is very, very important that collectively they stay together."
It was hard not to see Monaghan as red-hot favourites for victory ahead of this game, and after less than a minute they had showed their class. McManus opened the scoring after 30 seconds with a good point from distance, and straight from the restart he was handed a great goal chance, but pulled his effort wide.
Buoyed by that early let-off, Leitrim kept in touch with their Division 1 visitors and after 11 minutes the teams were level at 0-3 each, with Jack Heslin on target twice, while McManus and McCarthy added scores for the Ulster men.
Leitrim were creating plenty of chances, but crucially they failed to convert some of their better ones. Ryan O'Rourke and Darragh Rooney failed to convert goal chances in the ninth and 14th minutes, while Darren Hughes was also denied by a great Diarmuid McKiernan save at the other end. Rory Beggan slotted the Monaghan '45 that followed though, while Donal Wrynn was off target with two '45s for Leitrim. Leitrim certainly had to work very hard to create those chances, with their forwards moving well to create the room, but Monaghan soon got to terms with their tactics, and the openings dried up for Guckian's side.
Eleven minutes before the break, McManus was mightily relieved to only earn a yellow card following his crude lunge at Michael McWeeney, but there was no doubting Monaghan were comfortable with how the game was unfolding.
With McCarthy and Fintan Kelly on target, they eased into a four-point lead, while McManus also added two more scores to give his side a 0-10 to 0-4 interval lead. It was fully deserved considering their second-quarter domination.
It didn't take long for Monaghan to reassert their authority after the break. McCarthy fired a goal chance wide of the post in the 38th minute, but his side still reeled off the next three points to extend their lead.
Captain Colin Walshe underlined their hunger to wrap up the win with the first of those scores following a lung-busting drive up-field, while McManus and Beggan also tagged on scores for a 0-13 to 0-4 lead.
With the win guaranteed, the Ulster side let their concentration slip with four poor wides in a row, during which time Leitrim closed the gap thanks to points from the industrious O'Rourke and Heslin.
But Ryan Wylie fisted a point from a tight angle before substitute Paudie McKenna also got in on the act with the first of two scores for his side in the 59th minute.
Jack McCarron was withdrawn before the throw-in as a precaution, but he was still able to appear for the last ten minutes. He pointed two frees while McKenna and Dessie Ward also made sure of the win with a couple of late scores.
Scorers - Monaghan: C McCarthy 1-3 (2f); C McManus 0-5 (3f); R Beggan 0-2 (1f, 1 45); J McCarron 0-2 (2f); P McKenna 0-2; F Kelly, K O'Connell, C Walshe, R Wylie, and D Ward 0-1 each. Leitrim: E Mulligan 0-4 (4f), J Heslin 0-3, R O'Rourke 0-2.
Monaghan: R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; F Kelly, C Walshe, D Ward; N Kearns, D Hughes; R McAnespie, D Malone, K O'Connell; C McCarthy, T Kerr, C McManus. Subs: O Duffy for Malone (44), S Carey for T Kerr (44), P McKenna for Kelly (47), N McAdam for Hughes (50), D Mone for Boyle (54), J McCarron for McManus (61).
Leitrim: D McKiernan; P Maguire, J Mitchell, M McWeeney; J Rooney, S Quinn, N Plunkett; J Heslin, D Wrynn; A Flynn, R O'Rourke, B Gallagher; D Rooney, D Moran, E Mulligan. Subs: D McGovern for Gallagher (33), C McGloin for Plunkett (half-time), D Flynn for Moran (54), E Ward for Heslin (61), N McWeeney for J Rooney (67), J Gilheany for Wrynn (71).
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)
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