It took 90 minutes of top class entertainment to decide the winners of the National Hurling League Division Four final at Kingspan Breffni Park yesterday.
A point from Monaghan's right-half forward Stephen Lambe deep into injury time forced the game into extra-time and in a thrilling climax to a high-scoring game, Lambe shot the winning point three minutes into additional time at the end of extra-time.
The final was played in the presence of GAA president Nickey Brennan who must have been impressed by the standard of hurling and by the large attendance at the Cavan venue.
Monaghan looked the likely winners in the early stages and led by 1-14 to 2-7 at half-time. With five minutes remaining of normal time the Farney men were still ahead this time by five points, 1-18 to 2-10.
However, South Down staged a remarkable recovery with points from Damien McCusker and a goal from John Brown to level the scores. In fact they went ahead in the fourth minute of injury time through Eoin McGennis but then came Stephen Lambe's levelling score in the 42 minute of the half.
With 10 minutes each way of extra-time it was still difficult to separate the teams, but Monaghan seemed to have control when they led at the interval by four points, 1-23 to 3-13.
South Down had other ideas and a goal from Aidan Brown five minutes into the second-half was the boost they needed and when full-forward Eoin McGennis levelled the scores once again, it looked like a replay. But Lambe became Monaghan's hero with the winning score from a free in the 83rd minute of the game.
Scorers -- Monaghan: S Lambe 0-16, Michael Greaney 1-4, P O'Connell, B McGuigan 0-2 each, Arthur Hughes, E MacSuibhne, Michael Dorean 0-1 each. South Down: E McGennis 2-1,J Brown 2-3, A Brown 1-3, J Murphy 0-3, D, McCusker 0-2, J, McCusker, D Doran 0-1 each.
Monaghan -- M McHugh; A Kerr, J, McHugh, P Murphy; D Crowe, P O'Connell, G Coleman; D Connelly, B Phelan; S Lambe, A Hughes, E, MacSuibhne; M Greaney, M Doran, B McGuigan. Subs: P Dowdall for D Crowe (19), Crowe for Dowdall (28), P Dowdall for A Kerr (43) N Meaney for E McSuibhne (51), K Boylan for N Meaney (72), R Healey for M Doran (74), M Doran for R Healey (e/t).
South Down -- D Kearns; N Conway, B McAleenam, P, McCusker; J, McGrath, D McCusker, A Higgins; D Doran, J Murphy; K Maxwell, C, O'Neill, J Brown; A Brown, E McGennis, J McCusker. Subs: T Jennings for C O'Neill (19), J O'Hare for T Jennings and D, McGovern for K Maxwell (h/t).
Ref -- J Devlin (Tyrone).