Monday 11 December 2017

Relief for O'Rourke as Farney edge war of attrition

MONAGHAN 1-10 CAVAN 0-12

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

JIM McGuinness and Rory Gallagher were on a spying mission at Clones on Saturday night, but even victorious Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke admitted they won't have seen too much to worry them for the provincial decider.

JIM McGuinness and Rory Gallagher were on a spying mission at Clones on Saturday night, but even victorious Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke admitted they won't have seen too much to worry them for the provincial decider.

"Donegal have been the benchmark for all teams in the last few years. It's going to be a serious uphill battle but we're delighted to be there," he said.

"We'll be written off by those looking on from outside, that's only natural. You don't need me to tell you if we play like that against Donegal we're not going to win the game. Donegal are on a different level altogether. People will say we came through the easier side of the draw, which is probably right.

"Donegal are going for three-in-a-row. It's going to be a massive task for us. But at least we're there and we've a chance to put our best foot forward."

At least Monaghan have three weeks to prepare mentally and physically for the challenge of facing the daunting Donegal mean machine.

They could be nursing the wounds and tiredness of battle today and facing into a replay, but Cavan were denied a last-gasp chance to force a draw by the non-action of referee Marty Duffy.

He allowed play to carry on when Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan twisted and turned and kept possession as he desperately tried to get the ball clear under pressure from Cavan forwards in the dying seconds.

SURVIVED

Beggan looked to have fouled the ball and also over-carried, but Duffy's whistle stayed silent, and Monaghan survived.

Under the circumstances, Cavan manager Terry Hyland showed remarkable composure and acceptance of his team's fate. "That's the referee's call and everybody keeps asking me that question. I can't answer for the referee," he said.

"If he doesn't blow it I can't give my opinion. I could say it should have been a free in, but my opinion doesn't really count."

It had been a close and entertaining contest, with plenty of open play as both sides drove forward from deep before entering the defensive screens erected by the two sides.

Only a spate of wides, particularly in the second half by both sets of players, caused the scoring to be as low as it was, but the game was always intense and interesting.

Cavan's main scoring threats, Martin Dunne and Eugene Keating, were largely held in check by a dogged defensive display, particularly from Colin Walshe, who gave Dunne his undivided attention.

Dunne managed three points, two from frees, and Keating only had a point from play for his efforts.

Still, the game hung in the balance to the end, although Monaghan were perhaps fated to win if the number 13 means anything.

It was the 13th minute when their No 13 Christopher McGuinness smashed the ball into the back of the Cavan net for Monaghan's first score of the game. Cavan had started brightly and were 0-3 to 0-0 ahead until McGuinness's goal.

McGuinness looked like he might have raised a green flag in the sixth minute, but the ball was scrambled away when it looked as if it might have crossed the Cavan goal-line.

Exchanges were tough, with both sides guilty of a number of blocking tackles on runners which would have been black-card offences if that system were being applied this season. Still, it was a lot better on the discipline front than the league game in February which featured five red cards and 14 yellows.

Cavan won that day, and the result was in the mind of man of the match Conor McManus, scorer of six valuable points for Monaghan on Saturday.

"Quietly the whole team used it as a bit of a spur on for the day because we were very discontent with our performance over in Cavan in February. We knew coming here today we had a job to do and we did it," said McManus.

At 1-5 to Monaghan against Cavan's 0-8 at half-time, the game was in the melting pot but as each side hit wides, it looked as if nobody wanted to win.

Finally, McManus clipped over a 48th-minute point to record the first score of the half, and that was followed four minutes later by an equaliser from a free by Cavan's Niall McDermott.

Game on, at last but it was a war of attrition. Both managers rolled out the substitutes but the significant replacements were on the Monaghan side.

The introduction of first Paul Finlay in the 48th minute and Dick Clerkin two minutes later brought craft, guile, and strength to the Monaghan mix.

Cavan weren't prepared to lie down but every point from there to the finish was hard-earned by the two sides.

Points by Finlay and McManus from a free and then a fine catch-turn-kick score by McManus left Monaghan ahead by 1-9 to 0-11 with eight minutes left.

The tension was high, the battle absorbing, but when the crunch came Finlay's 69th-minute free gave Monaghan a two-point cushion.

Cavan could only reply with a free from 46 metres by goalie Conor Gilsenan in time added on and Monaghan were safely through to swim with the sharks in the final.

Scorers – Monaghan: C McManus 0-6 (3fs), C McGuinness 1-0, P Finlay 0-2 (2fs), K Hughes, D Hughes 0-1 each. Cavan: N McDermott 0-3 (2fs), M Dunne 0-3 (2fs), D Givney 0-2, C Gilsenan (1f), J McEnroe, C Mackey, E Keating 0-1 each.

Monaghan – R Beggan 7; C Walshe 7, K Duffy 7, D Wylie 7; V Corey 7, N McAdam 7, D Mone 7; O Lennon 7, D Hughes 7; S Gollogly 7, K Hughes 7, G Doogan 7; C McManus 8, T Freeman 7, C McGuinness 7. Subs: P Finlay 7 for T Freeman (44); D Clerkin 7 for G Doogan (50); K O'Connell 7 for N McAdam (59); P Donaghy for C McGuinness (64); D Malone for S Gollogly (70).

Cavan – C Gilsenan 7; J McLoughlin 7, R Dunne 7, K Brady 7; J McEnroe 7, A Clarke 7, K Clarke 7; D O'Reilly 7, D Givney 8; C Mackey 7, R Flanagan 7, F Flanagan 7; N McDermott, 7, M Dunne 7, E Keating 7. Subs: M Reilly 7 for K Brady (48); T Corr for J McEnroe (60); K Tierney for M Dunne (69); J Brady for N McDermott (69).

Ref – M Duffy (Sligo).

Irish Independent

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