Monaghan edge through qualifier as late goal sparks melee and flurry of red cards
Monaghan 1-10 Fermanagh 1-06
A four-point winning scoreline certainly flattered Monaghan, who needed an injury-time goal from Conor McCarthy to finally shake off the persistent shackles of Fermanagh at Clones.
First round qualifiers are only about winning and having only won two of their last eight games, Monaghan were short on confidence and second best for long spells against Fermanagh, who finished the game with 12 players.
The game was in the balance right up to the end and it was only after McCarthy fisted the ball into an empty net five minutes into stoppage time that the result was secured.
Fermanagh then lost James McMahon and Paul McCusker to straight red cards in the last act of the game, for their part in a brawl which erupted in the wake of the winning goal.
Despite losing defender Lee Cullen to a red card after 55 minutes and missing a penalty, Fermanagh battled gamely right to the finish and gave this everything they had.
Rory Gallagher’s side led 1-2 to no 0-1 early on after Ryan Lyons’ well-taken goal, but Monaghan scored seven points in a row either side of half time to take control.
However they were unconvincing and in an ill-disciplined final quarter, Conor McManus, who had one of his quietest days in a Monaghan jersey, picked up a black card.
Monaghan struggled for a long time and the result might have been different had Sean Quigley tucked away a penalty midway through the second half.
Conal Jones was fouled in the square, and though the decision looked harsh on Mon-aghan, Quigley looked set to make them pay but Rory Beggan guessed the right way and tucked his shot round his right-hand post.
Beggan was then lucky to escape a red card – he jumped up after the save and appeared to elbow Quigley.
Quigley was again in the wars late on. With no left-footed free-taker on the field, no-one wanted to take a 73rd minute free over on the right side of the pitch, which could have levelled the scores and taken the game to extra time.
Eventually Quigley stepped up but dragged his effort wide. Relief all round for Malachy O’Rourke.
“I’m just delighted to get through.
“There is always a hangover from losing your provincial championship match and we knew that could be the case.
“Fermanagh got a period of ascendancy towards the end and thankfully we worked the last kickout and got the goal and put some daylight between us.
“We’re still not playing at the level we should be. There’s a lot of big fish in the pool now and it would be stupid to look too far ahead, but hopefully we will be stronger the next day, because we need to be.”
Fermanagh got the start they wanted with a sixth-minute goal giving them a precious lead to hold on to.
Declan McCusker fisted it through to the unmarked Ryan Lyons, a late inclusion in the team in place of Sean Quigley, who tucked the ball away nicely.
Monaghan were frustrated and disjointed in the opening quarter but a fantastic 10-minute flurry before the break was when they turned the game in their favour with low percentage shots flying over the bar.
Rory Gallagher, who would only say on his future as Erne manager, “we’ll have to talk” felt they could have won it.
“We played well and left everything out there.
“We had all the play at times and dominated a huge amount of the play in the second half but we just couldn’t take the scores when the chances presented themselves.
“Even though we missed chances, I still thought we showed outstanding character."