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Monaghan survive Donegal revival to deservedly claim McKenna Cup

Monaghan 1-11 Donegal 0-13

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Monaghan captain Ryan Wylie lifts the cup after the Dr McKenna Cup Final match between Donegal and Monaghan at O'Neill's Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Monaghan captain Ryan Wylie lifts the cup after the Dr McKenna Cup Final match between Donegal and Monaghan at O'Neill's Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Monaghan captain Ryan Wylie lifts the cup after the Dr McKenna Cup Final match between Donegal and Monaghan at O'Neill's Healy Park in Omagh, Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

As with all things pre-season, this McKenna Cup final at Healy Park must be filed in ‘it’s only January’ folder.

But while Monaghan left with the silverware, their first McKenna Cup win since 2003, there was enough for both sides to head home with some element of satisfaction.

Monaghan can point to the fact that they dominated large periods of the game and at one stage built up a nine-point lead, something that was ultimately enough to see them over the line.

For their part Donegal will reflect on how, after a woeful opening to the game, they rallied.

Not for the first time, their comeback coincided with the introduction Michael Murphy.

He contributed 0-6, five from frees, but his presence alone woke Donegal from a slumber that had seen them manage just two points from play in the opening 54 minutes.

Donegal had been frustrated for much of the game as Monaghan were typically gritty and organised and economical.

Donegal could find no space to operate and that annoyance manifested itself on the sideline.

On 30 minutes, after an exchange with Pádraig Hughes, Donegal manager Declan Bonner was informed he’d be spending the rest of the game in the stand.

And from there it looked like it would be a long spin back home for Donegal as they were second best in almost every area.

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A comeback looked unlikely but instead they hit five points on the spin from the 47th to the 60th minute.

Both sides ran in several subs as the game lost its shape but Donegal were in the ascendancy late on and when Murphy punched over to put two between the sides on 67 minutes, it seemed like only the clock could beat them.

With the crowd in Omagh now full engaged, Murphy tapped over another free to reduce it to the minimum. However Monaghan held their nerve to break out to win a free.

That was ultimately enough to see out the clock.

There had been no sign of that dramatic ending when Bonner was dispatched to the stands.

At that stage Monaghan had already outlined their superiority. Their goal came on just four minutes and was a classic of the counter-attack variety.

Veteran Darren Hughes picked off an attempted Donegal kick pass. Monaghan broke with speed before their lone full forward, Jack McCarron secured possession up the field after a number of clever runs.

He found Dessie Ward, and steaming through at full pace, he gave Michael Lynch in the Donegal goal no chance.

Donegal replied with a point through Ciarán Thompson and he had a half sight on goal just a minute later but Rory Beggan made an easy save.

A classy Micheal Bannigan point put Monaghan 1-3 to 0-3 up at the waterbreak, a concept that is tipped to be dispensed with for next weekend.

Monaghan created another goal chance but had to make do with a point from Shane Carey after a goalmouth scramble.

Another Bannigan point and a classy score from Andrew Woods put Monaghan in charge before Bonner was sent to the stands.

It left former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford shouting in instructions but half time couldn’t come quickly enough for Donegal as they had failed to score from play since the sixth minute.

Carey added to Monaghan’s tally late in the half put Seamus McEnaney’s side into a deserved 1-7 to 0-4 lead at the interval.

From there, Murphy came in and Donegal charged for home. It was too little too late but at least gave them enough to head into their clash with Mayo in Sligo with some confidence.

Monaghan will be back in Omagh to face the All-Ireland champions.

Scorers – Monaghan: M Bannigan 0-5 (3f), D Ward 1-0, S Carey, J McCarron (2f) 0-2 each, A Woods, C Walshe 0-1. Donegal: M Murphy 0-6 (5f), P McBrearty 0-3 (2f) C Thompson 0-2, C McGuinness (f), R McHugh 0-1 each.

Monaghan: R Beggan; S Hanratty, K Duffy, R Wylie; R McAnespie, D Ward, C McCarthy; D Hughes, K Lavelle; S Carey, M Bannigan, C Walshe; A Mulligan, J McCarron, A Woods Subs: N Kearns for Lavelle, D Garland for Carey (both HT), F Kelly for McCarthy, K O’Connell for Walshe (both 44), C Boyle for Wylie, D Wylie for Hughes (54), G Mohan for Woods (58), J Mealiff for Mulligan (70).

Donegal: M Lynch; C Ward, B McCole, E Ban Gallagher; R McHugh, P Brennan, T McClenaghan; J McGee, C Thompson; O McFadden Ferry, P Mogan, S O’Donnell; P McBrearty, C McGuinness, C O’Donnell Subs: M Murphy for McGuinness, E O’Donnell for S O’Donnell, C McGonagle for Brennan (all HT), N O’Donnell for C O’Donnell (47), M Langan for McGee (51), J McKelvey for McClenaghan (53), E Doherty for McFadden Ferry (58), O Doherty for McHugh (66).

Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).


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