McLoughlin the difference as Mayo see off Monaghan to set up mouthwatering league final with Kerry
Mayo 3-15 Monaghan 1-18
Kevin McLoughlin's contribution of 2-2 proved the difference as Mayo edged out Monaghan in Elverys McHale Park today to seal their place in the Division One final.
McLoughlin fired two first-half goals to help James Horan's side into a seven-point half-time lead, 2-7 to 0-6, but they were forced to sweat it out in the second half.
Conor McManus and Jack McCarron led a Farney fightback – despite the 45th minute dismissal of Fintan Kelly – and Paddy Durcan cleared a McCarron shot off the line in the last play of the game to prevent a draw.
McCarron opened affairs with a point inside the first minute – that would be a common theme throughout the half – but the home side got off to a flying start when McLoughlin fired to the net in the sixth minute.
A pinpoint free from Aidan O'Shea to Darren Coen saw McLoughlin played through on goal and the Knockmore attacker made no mistake to stroke past Rory Beggan.
Karl O'Connell had a goal chance at the other end but a brilliant save from David Clarke – who was substituted after a heavy collision with Darren Hughes before the break – denied the All-Star defender.
Points from McManus and McCarron had the visitors level before four in a row from Mayo through Jason Doherty (free), James McCormack and two fine efforts from Fergal Boland left them in control midway through the half, 1-4 to 0-3.
It was the McCarron show for Malachy O'Rourke's side as he finished with five first-half points to his name but efforts from Boland, O'Shea and Brian Reape helped Mayo into a commanding half-time lead.
A pulsating second-half saw Monaghan rally strongly despite Kelly's sending off and Darren Hughes had them within three points when firing to the net on 49 minutes, 2-10 to 1-10.
Beggan denied McLoughin his hat-trick with a stunning save in the next play but was bitterly unlucky as the rebound appeared to hit his head and bounce into the net.
It looked like Mayo had weathered the storm but McManus kept the visitors within touching distance, although they couldn't get any closer than three points as Mayo held out.
Mayo booked their final date with Kerry next Sunday – their first League final appearance since 2012 – while Monaghan maintained their Division 1 status despite defeat.
SCORERS – Mayo: K McLoughlin 2-2, F Boland 0-3, R Beggan (og), J Doherty 0-2 (1f), B Reape 0-1m, D Coen 0-1, D O'Connor 0-1, B Harrison 0-1, R Hennelly 0-1f, D Vaughan 0-1, J McCormack 0-1,
Monaghan: C McManus 0-8 (5f), J McCarron 0-7 (1f), D Hughes 1-0, R Beggan 0-1f, C McCarthy 0-1, R McAnespie 0-1.
MAYO – D Clarke; B Harrison, S Coen, E O'Donoghue; P Durcan, C Barrett, J McCormack; M Ruane, A O'Shea; F Boland, J Doherty, D O'Connor; K McLoughlin, D Coen, C Diskin.
Subs: B Reape for Diskin inj (31), R Hennelly for Clarke inj (34), J Gibbons for Ruane (blood 48), D Drake for O'Donoghue (56), J Carr for D Coen (59), D Vaughan for McCormack (68), C Treacy for for Boland (74).
MONAGHAN – R Beggan; B Kerr, D Wylie, R Wylie; K O'Connell, C Boyle, K Duffy; D Hughes, N McAdam; F Kelly, D Malone, R McAnespie; C McCarthy, J McCarron, C McManus.
Subs: S O'Hanlon for Malone (half-time), D Mone for McAdam (49), V Corey for D Wylie and J Mealiff for O'Connell (both 60), O Duffy for McCarthy (68).