Ulster SFC: Monaghan reach decider
Ulster Senior Football Championship Semi-Final
MONAGHAN 4-17 ARMAGH 2-21
By Declan Bogue at Pairc Esler
On an emotional day for Monaghan GAA and the county, they made it back to another Ulster final after coming with a late push to eventually see off Armagh.
There was an eerie hush over the stadium prior to this game with the news of Brendan Óg Duffy, captain of Monaghan’s Under-20 team who had been killed in an accident the night before, shortly after beating Donegal in the Ulster semi-final.
Monaghan started like a team that wanted to honour his memory.
It was incredible that they found themselves in that late position, two points down with six minutes left on the clock after a stupendous first half that saw Jack McCarron involved in all of their four goals in that period.
Monaghan had the ball in the net after two minutes. A quick moving free went through Jack McCarron and Ryan McAnespie to present old stager Conor McManus with the kind of chance he always sticks away.
McCarron had a direct hand in the four Monaghan goals, all in the first half.
The second goal was nailed by McCarron himself after a botched kickout by Shea Magill – a late inclusion after regular goalkeeper Blaine Hughes was ruled out.
The third arrived on the quarter hour mark, McCarron burning McKay with a twist and delaying his pass perfectly for Michael Bannigan to palm home. Their final goal was a one two with Darren Hughes who followed in his pass untroubled to drill low to the net.
Even heading into the final quarter they were seven ahead. But immediately from the restart with Rian O’Neill at his incredible best, they nabbed a goal from substitute Conor Turbitt, and had the ball in the net again through fellow sub Tiernan Kelly after a group tackled overturned Stephen O’Hanlon on the sideline.
A hot evening became scalding. The presence of 2,300 fans inside the stadium was a welcome development, but at times it felt like there was five times that number present. The commitment and courage shown by both teams was breathtaking on a day that demanded a huge amount.
It took three late frees converted nervelessly by Conor McManus – and he had been fouled for each of them – to get over the line in a game that earns instant classic status.
Scorers for Monaghan: C McManus (1-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 mark), J McCarron, M Bannigan (1-1 each), D Hughes (1-0), R Beggan (0-2 frees), D Ward, S O’Hanlon (0-2 each), C McCarthy, S Carey (0-1 each).
Scorers for Armagh: R O’Neill (0-6, 3frees), C Turbitt (1-1), O O’Neill (0-3), R Grugan (0-3, 1free), T Kelly (1-0), C O’Hanlon, G McCabe, N Grimley, J Óg Burns, A Murnin, S Campbell, C O’Neill, R McQuillan (0-1 each)
MONAGHAN: R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; K O’Connell, K Lavelle, R McAnespie; D Hughes, N Kearns; M Bannigan, A Mulligan, D Ward; C McCarthy, J McCarron, C McManus.
Subs: S O’Hanlon for McCarthy (35 mins), S Carey for Mulligan (42 mins), C Walshe for O’Connell (47 mins), K Hughes for Lavelle (47 mins), A Woods for Kearns (60 mins), F Kelly for D Hughes (Head inj, 73 mins).
ARMAGH: S Magill; J Morgan, A McKay, R Kennedy; C O’Hanlon, G McCabe, C Mackin; N Grimley, O O’Neill; J Hall, R O’Neill, J Óg Burns; R Grugan, A Murnin, S Campbell.
Subs: A Forker for McKay (29 mins), C O’Neill for O’Hanlon, C Turbitt for Grimley (both half-time), T Kelly for Hall (50 mins), R McQuillan for Mackin (52 mins).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).