Senior Football Challenge
Monaghan 3-9 Meath 2-7 2/5/11
Monaghan continued their preparations for the championship with a five-point win over Meath at the official opening of Páirc Grattan, Inniskeen on Monday. Both sides fielded a mixture of established first-team players and fringe players in a game which was entertaining, if short on intensity.
Goals by Paul Finlay and Latton duo Bernard O’Brien and Owen Lennon were enough for Monaghan to get the better of Meath and their former manager Séamus McEnaney. Darren Hughes, Lennon, Neil McAdam and Donal Morgan stood out for Monaghan, who had nine scorers in total.
Meath made a goal chance in the opening minute, but Brian Farrell sent it wide. They didn’t have long to wait, though, as Paddy O’Rourke found the net from a rebound after Mark Keogh had made a good save. Monaghan got off the mark in the seventh minute when Paul Finlay converted a 40-metre free after a foul on debutant Daniel McKenna, who replaced the injured James Turley early on. Neil McAdam added a point from play, but Farrell responded with Meath’s first point. Monaghan got their first goal on 16 minutes when Finlay broke a long ball down to Bernard O’Brien, who fired past Brendan Murphy. Donal Morgan added a point after a quickly-taken free by Stephen Gollogly, but Joe Sheridan replied after he had been released by a quick free from Farrell.
Monaghan struck again after 21 minutes when Darren Hughes burst out of defence and played a long ball over the top for Finlay to crash a powerful shot to the net, but Meath responded four minutes later. A high ball from Brian Meade put Ian Davis through and although his first shot was well saved by Keogh, he made no mistake from the rebound. Owen Duffy linked up with Gollogly to kick a good point, but a foul on Gary O’Brien allowed Farrell to convert a 20-metre free, which kept Meath within a point at half-time: 2-4 to 2-3.
Bernard O’Brien and Paddy Gilsenan swapped points from frees in the early stages of the second half before Sheridan sent a goal chance over the bar after he had been well-placed by Gilsenan. Meath were forced to replace Anthony Moyles just five minutes after he came on when he was involved in an off-the-ball tackle on Morgan. Mark Downey kicked a point after taking a pass from his clubmate Gollogly, although a well-taken score by Sheridan kept Meath in touch. Monaghan pulled away in the final 15 minutes, started by a fine point by substitute Shane Smyth, followed by a rare goal from Owen Lennon, who had been put through by McKenna.
Monaghan should have had another major with eight minutes left when a clever pass from Martin McElroy put Lennon in the clear and he unselfishly passed it for Gollogly, whose fisted effort from close range somehow went over the bar. The hosts continued to create chances, as O’Brien had a shot blocked before Finlay curled over a nice point off his right foot. Meath sub Jamie Queeney got his team’s only score of the last 25 minutes after a Gilsenan free dropped short, but Monaghan were comfortable winners.
Monaghan: M Keogh; K Duffy, Darren Hughes (Capt.), C Galligan; D Wylie, D Morgan (0-1), O Duffy (0-1); O Lennon (1-0), N McAdam (0-1); S Gollogly (0-1), M Downey (0-1), J Turley; C McGuinness, P Finlay (1-2, 0-1f), B O’Brien (1-1, 0-1f).
Subs: D McKenna for Turley (inj., 3 mins), M McNally for O Duffy (H-T), C Hughes for Wylie (45), M McElroy for McGuinness (47), S Smyth (0-1) for Downey (50).
Meath: B Murphy; G O’Brien, K Reilly, W Ryan; T Skelly, B Menton, C Lenehan; N Crawford (Capt.), B Meade; P Gilsenan (0-1f), C Ward, I Davis (1-0); B Farrell (0-2, 1f), P O’Rourke (1-0), J Sheridan (0-3).
Subs: E Harrington for O’Brien, A Moyles for Lenehan, T Walsh for Crawford, C King for Reilly (all H-T), J Queeney (0-1) for Ward (39), G O’Brien for Moyles (41), N Crawford for Meade (inj., 51), C Lenehan for Menton (55).
Referee: C Branagan (Down).