Irwin hails Monaghan's leaders
Monaghan got the defence of their title off to a winning start when they came with a late flurry to defeat Down in this entertaining contest in Clones on Saturday.
"When we needed leaders in the closing stages, the men that mattered like Jason Irwin and Karl Gallagher stood up and were counted," said Monaghan manager Mark Counihan.
They started well, opening an three-point lead, but Down worked their way into the game and by half-time they had opened a 0-5 to 0-4 lead. In an action-packed second half. Down opened a four-point lead entering the final quarter, the crucial score being a goal from Adam Crimmins.
Down now face into the qualifiers while Monaghan play Antrim in the quarter-final on Saturday.
Scorers - Monaghan: T Kierans 1-1, J Irwin 0-4 (3f), D Dempsey (2f) K Gallagher, L McDonald (2f) 0-2 each, S Hanratty and D Marron 0-1 each. Down: A Crimmins 1-1, O Savage 0-3 (3f), J McGovern 0-2, R Magill, S McCusker, P Clancy and C McLoughlin 0-1 each.
Monaghan - J Kirk, S Slevin, R Boyle, S Hanratty, D Treanor, E Duffy, K Connolly, C McKernan, D Kerley, D Marron, K Gallagher, T Kierans, D Dempsey, I Irwin, L McDonald. Subs: D McCann for C McKernan (45).
Down - A Furlong, P McCarthy, S Donegan, R Campbell, R Magill, J Gray, D McMulen, P McEvoy, O Murdock, S McCusker, J McGovern, P Clancy, O Savage, A Crimmins, C McLoughlin. Subs: T Magee for D McMullen (h-t), O Cunningham for P McEvoy (58).
Ref - P Clarke (Cavan).