Round 4B Qualifier: Impressive Monaghan advance
All Ireland SFC Round 4B Qualifier
MONAGHAN 1-24 DOWN 1-16
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
Revenge was a dish served piping hot at Croke Park as Monaghan bounced back from their Ulster championship defeat to Down with a rip roaring display.
Conor McManus' 10 points and an excellent second-half performance generally from Malachy O'Rourke's men secured the sweetest of wins and a precious All-Ireland quarter-final place on August 5.
Down pulled off a surprise win over the Ulster title hopefuls at the semi-final stage of the provincial championship 35 days ago and were level at 1-11 to 1-11 after 45 minutes in this rematch.
But Monaghan pulled clear from there on and outscored the Mourne men by 0-13 to 0-5 in an impressive show of quality and character in the round 4B qualifier tie.
The win has secured Monaghan a seventh game in the Championship for the first time in their history and they had stars in the Hughes brothers, Kieran and Darren, who contributed 0-6 between them from midfield.
Substitutes Jack McCarron and Conor McCarthy were influential also and hit 0-6 between them.
The suspicion beforehand was that Monaghan, armed with a precious siege mentality after being outfought and out-thought by Down last month, might display their superiority on the grander stage.
For the first five minutes it was panning out that way with Darren Hughes, black carded in their previous win over Carlow, and sibling Kieran kicking the Allianz Football League Division 1 outfit two ahead.
Yet within two minutes Down were back on level terms, setting in motion a tit-for-tat scoring encounter that was thrilling to watch.
The sides were level five times in a richly entertaining first-half that was notable for Down's utter refusal to go along with the pre-match script.
Down full-forward Connaire Harrison performed superbly on Drew Wylie in Armagh city and was determined to prove it was no one-off. He did just that with a terrific first-half display and scored three points off Wylie before the Ballybay man was shifted off the powerful Glasdrumman man around the 25th minute.
The third of those points put Down 0-7 to 0-4 ahead with almost 19 minutes played though three converted McManus points for Monaghan tied the game up again.
It was intoxicating stuff with both sides looking like they would score each time they crossed into the opposition's half.
Fintan Kelly constantly raided forward from his defensive berth and hit an excellent 27th minute goal, his third in as many games after strikes against Wexford and Carlow.
Darren Hughes and Shane Carey combined to put Kelly free and though Karl O'Connell was free outside him, Kelly opted to fire hard and straight to the roof of the net.
McManus converted his fifth free approaching the half-hour mark and Monaghan were back two clear again, 1-8 to 0-9.
Harrison was to punish Monaghan again though and after beating Kelly in the air to a high ball and laying it off to Dermot Malone was well placed to take the ball on again and slip a shot to the net.
The sides went in deadlocked on 1-9 apiece which just about reflected the back and forth of an intriguing encounter that had the potential to go either way.
They were level again for the seventh time in the game after 45 minutes at 1-11 to 1-11 when Monaghan finally stamped their authority on proceedings with five points in a row.
Ryan Wylie strode upfield to begin the spree with a neat point and was followed by McManus as well as substitutes Jack McCarron and Conor McCarthy.
Down looked rattled and Darragh O'Hanlon held his head in his hands when he kicked two wides from frees.
McCarron and McCarthy were excellent when they came on and McCarthy helped himself to four points late on as Monaghan pulled further clear.
Scorers for Monaghan: Conor McManus 0-10 (8fs), Conor McCarthy 0-4, Fintan Kelly 1-0, Kieran Hughes 0-3 (1f), Darren Hughes 0-3, Jack McCarron 0-2, Owen Duffy 0-1, Ryan Wylie 0-1
*Scorers for Down: *Connaire Harrison 1-4, Jerome Johnston 0-3 (1f), Darragh O'Hanlon 0-2 (0-2f), Kevin McKernan 0-2, Conor Maginn 0-2, Caolan Mooney 0-1, Shay Millar 0-1, David McKibbin 0-1.
MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan; Fintan Kelly, Drew Wylie, Ryan Wylie; Karl O'Connell, Colin Walshe, Kieran Duffy; Kieran Hughes, Darren Hughes; Ryan McAnespie, Dermot Malone, Gavin Doogan; Shane Carey, Darren Freeman, Conor McManus.
Subs: Owen Duffy for Malone (h/t), Jack McCarron for Carey (h/t), Dessie Ward for Doogan (49, blood), Conor McCarthy for Freeman (46), Vinny Corey for Walshe (62), Doogan for McAnespie (69), Dessie Mone for O'Connell (71).
DOWN: Michael Cunningham; Niall McParland, Gerard McGovern, Darren O'Hagan; Darragh O'Hanlon, Conaill McGovern, Caolan Mooney; Peter Turley, Niall Donnelly; Kevin McKernan, Conor Maginn, Shay Millar; Sean Dornan, Connaire Harrison, Ryan Johnston.
Subs: Jerome Johnston for Dornan (49), Aidan Carr for Turley (52), Mark Poland for Maginn (58), David McKibbin for Millar (58), Donal O'Hare for Mooney (68), Joe Murphy for R Johnston (76).
REFEREE: Maurice Deegan (Laois).