Allianz National Football League Division One
Down 1-16 Monaghan 0-11 19/3/11
Monaghan face a battle in their last two NFL games to maintain Division One status after they slipped to an eight-point defeat against Down in Newry on Saturday evening. Monaghan trailed by just two points at half-time and there was still just four points separating the teams with 15 minutes left, but a goal from a penalty by Martin Clarke put the game beyond doubt and Down went on to win in style to move up to second in the table. It was a disappointing performance from Eamon McEneaney’s side, who weren’t helped by Owen Lennon having to go off injured late in the first half, as well as the enforced absences of Darren Hughes and Gavin Doogan. Danny Hughes, Kevin McKernan, Gerard McCartan, Martin Clarke, Kalum King and Paul McComiskey played central roles for Down, while Paul Finlay led the way for Monaghan, with best support from Neil McAdam, Dessie Mone and David Hughes.
Down opened the scoring within a minute of the throw-in, with Danny Hughes kicking a point after a lay-off from Benny Coulter. Mark Poland doubled the hosts’ lead at the end of a good run by Paul McComiskey, before Coulter drilled a low shot wide, having kept a wayward shot from Poland in play. Paul Finlay got Monaghan off the mark when he converted a 20-metre free for a foul on Mark Downey, but Declan Rooney got forward from wing-back to kick Down’s third point. Down should have pulled further clear when Kalum King was fouled 25 metres out, but Martin Clarke didn’t connect properly with the free, which was blocked by Dessie Mone. Finlay and Clarke swapped points from 20-metre frees after fouls on Christopher McGuinness and Poland, before Vincent Corey came to Monaghan’s rescue with a block from a Peter Fitzpatrick shot. A McComiskey effort crept over the bar despite the best efforts of Monaghan keeper Mark Keogh in the 24th minute, but Finlay converted a brace of frees to keep the visitors in touch – the first after a foul on Conor McManus and the second after Conor Garvey had been penalised for over-carrying. Rooney kicked his second point after a cross-field pass by Clarke and Danny Hughes added a fine point at the end of a patient build-up. A well-taken score by Clarke opened up a four-point gap, but good approach play by Downey and Colin Walshe created Monaghan’s first score from play for McManus. Finlay took a pass from Downey to boot over an excellent point, which left two between the teams at half-time: Down 0-8 Monaghan 0-6.
Down started the second half the same way they had started the first, as Conor Maginn hit a point after just half a minute, before McComiskey got on the end of a Kalum King pass to fist the ball over. Finlay linked up with James Turley to send over another good point for Monaghan, but Coulter became the sixth Down forward to get on the scoresheet when he sent the ball over after a one-two with McComiskey. Hughes and Clarke combined to set up a point for Poland, but a foul on Dessie Mone allowed McManus to point a 20-metre free at the other end. Monaghan were almost in for a goal on 15 minutes when Downey attempted to put Dick Clerkin through, but Kevin McKernan got back to make a vital interception. Three minutes later, the ball was in the Monaghan net from a penalty. Coulter was dragged down by Corey after a Danny Hughes centre and Clarke buried the spot-kick into the top-left corner. The game was now out of Monaghan’s reach, particularly when Clarke converted a 30-metre free for a foul on Fitzpatrick, before picking out McComiskey for his second fisted point. Finlay won and scored a pair of 25-metre frees to take his tally to eight points, but Clarke responded from a free, giving him 1-4 for the evening. Monaghan substitute Conor Galligan got a consolation point two minutes from time, but Down sub Aidan Carr finished off a flowing move to seal an impressive win for the Mourne men. Monaghan’s last two games are in Inniskeen, with Kerry next up on April 3.
Down: D Alder; B McArdle, G McCartan, D Gordon; D Rooney (0-2), K McKernan, C Garvey; P Fitzpatrick, K King; D Hughes (0-2), M Poland (0-2), C Maginn (0-1); P McComiskey (0-3), B Coulter (Capt., 0-1), M Clarke (1-4, 1-0 pen, 0-3f).
Subs: M Doran for Garvey, R Sexton for Maginn, R Murtagh for Poland (all 62 mins), D McCartan for McArdle, A Carr (0-1) for Coulter (66).
Monaghan: M Keogh; K Duffy, V Corey, C Walshe; David Hughes, D Mone, N McAdam; O Lennon (Capt.), D Clerkin; P Finlay (0-8, 6f), C McGuinness, J Turley; M Downey, T Freeman, C McManus (0-2, 1f).
Subs: B McKenna for Lennon (inj., 32), B O’Brien for Freeman, O Duffy for McGuinness, C Galligan (0-1) for Hughes (all 62), S Smyth for Downey (68).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).