Sunday 18 February 2018

Monaghan seize their moment to book date with Donegal

MONAGHAN 1-10 CAVAN 0-12 Ulster SFC semi-final

John O'Brien

In the days ahead, Cavan will sit down and wonder how they came away from Clones with nothing. Terry Hyland's team were tactically the superior outfit, made life hard for the Monaghan forwards and there was a fluency and sense of purpose to their play that the home team struggled to find for long periods. And yet, on the scoreboard, where it counted, Monaghan held sway and earned the right to have a crack at Jim McGuinness's Donegal nonpareils in the Ulster showpiece.

For long stretches of the match, Cavan played the better football. They started the game brightly and looked more than a match for Monaghan in every sector. Alan Clarke swept in behind his half-back line to good effect. Killian Clarke roamed freely and provided an excellent link between defence and attack. The towering David Givney gave them a strong foothold in midfield.

And yet, for all the dominance they enjoyed, Cavan somehow allowed Monaghan to reach the sanctuary of half-time at level pegging. One mistake proved costly. A well-earned two-point lead by the 10th minute was cancelled out when Conor Gilsenan made a hames of a kick-out and Monaghan capitalised with a swift move that ended with Chris McGuinness rifling a low shot to the net. A tasty bonus for Monaghan.

Cavan found their scores easier to come by, just not in sufficient numbers. They notched three in a row from Givney, Cian Mackey and Niall McDermott and set on their merry way again but, although Monaghan found it hard to reach their dangermen up front, they did enough to stay on Cavan's coat-tails. Cavan might have had a goal chance on the stroke of half-time, but Martin Dunne opted to tap over. From the kick-out, Darren Hughes burst through and tapped over at the other end. Stalemate again.

The quality of the second 35 minutes dipped slightly. But that didn't make for any less thrilling an encounter. It took 11 minutes for Conor McManus to register the first score and that was cancelled out four minutes later by a McDermott free for Cavan. Two minutes later, the corner-forward kicked Cavan in front again with another free. Tense and utterly gripping, the game was developing into a classic.

Monaghan kicked wide after wide but for the last 20 minutes of the game they had Paul Finlay and Dick Clerkin on the field and that made a telling difference. Monaghan, ultimately, were just that bit stronger when it mattered. A Finlay free and another by McManus edged them in front again. Cavan hit back through McDermott, but McManus struck a wonderful point from long range moments later and the home team had their noses in front again.

Cavan were finding it harder and harder to punch holes in the Monaghan defence now. When they needed to, Monaghan's defenders were heroic and when Finlay fired over another free in the 70th minute, he gave his side some breathing space and a clear scent of victory. Cavan weren't done yet. Gilsenan marched forward from goal to reduce the gap to one.

It ended with Cavan supporters screaming for a free as Rory Beggan was caught in possession near his own goal. But Marty Duffy's whistle remained unblown and Monaghan clung on.

Scorers – Monaghan: C McManus 0-6 (3f), C McGuinness 1-0, P Finlay 0-2f, K Hughes, D Hughes 0-1 each. Cavan:

N McDermott 0-4 (3f), M Dunne 0-3 (2f), D Givney 0-2, E Keating, C Mackey, J McEnroe 0-1 each.

Monaghan: R Beggan, K Duffy, C Walshe, D Wylie, D Mone, V Corey, N McAdam, O Lennon, D Hughes, K Hughes, S Gollogly, G Doogan, C McManus, C McGuinness, T Freeman.

Subs: P Finlay for Freeman (43), D Clerkin for Doogan (49), K O'Connell for McAdam (58), G Doogan for McGuinness (66), D Malone for Gollogly (70).

Cavan: C Gilsenan, J McLoughlin, R Dunne, K Brady, J McEnroe, A Clarke, R Flanagan, K Clarke, D O'Reilly, D Givney, F Flanagan, N McDermott, C Mackey, M Dunne, E Keating. Subs: M Reilly for Brady (46), T Corr for McEnroe (60), K Tierney for Dunne (68).

Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)

Irish Independent

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