Nicky Rackard Cup Semi-Final
Monaghan 1-13 Louth 2-17 21/5/11
Monaghan exited the Nicky Rackard Cup despite a spirited performance against Louth in Saturday’s semi-final in Clones. Monaghan had the better of the first half, but a late revival by Louth saw them hit four successive points to trail by just one at half-time and they held the hosts scoreless in the third quarter. Monaghan stayed with their opponents all the way – showing a lot of improvement on their league meeting – but Louth did enough to go through to the final, with a fortunate goal deep into injury-time sealing victory. Louth had the accuracy of Diarmuid Murphy and good performances from Shane Callan, Brian Corcoran and Conor Kerrigan to thank for their win, while Stephen Lambe, Trevor Hilliard, Jim McHugh and Brian McGuigan led Monaghan’s challenge.
Monaghan started brightly with a point from a long-range free by Mickey McHugh, followed by a point from play by Seán Leonard after good work by Jim McHugh and Brian McGuigan. Diarmuid Murphy got Louth off the mark on six minutes, but Mickey McHugh won and scored a 20-metre free to restore Monaghan’s two-point lead. Strong pressure by the Monaghan forwards dispossessed Donagh O’Sullivan, allowing Éanna Mac Suibhne to hit a good score from distance, before Gary Boyd set up Trevor Hilliard for a point. Brian McGuigan linked up with fellow corner-forward Ronan Meegan to hit a fine point and although Murphy responded from a long-range free, a well-taken score by Stephen Lambe moved Monaghan five clear.
Gerard Smyth tapped over a 20-metre free for Louth after a foul on Peter Brennan, but Boyd hit back with a good point from play. Both sides went close to finding the net midway through the half, as Meegan’s flick from a Mac Suibhne centre went across the face of goal, before Mark Treanor produced a timely intervention when Murphy looked set to shoot at the other end. Brian Corcoran latched onto a Shane Callan sideline cut to send over a point for Louth, but Boyd again cancelled it out after a sideline by Meegan fell for him. Monaghan almost had a goal on the half-hour mark when a Leonard shot was cleared off the line after a long free by Stephen Lambe fell short, but Louth dominated the remainder of the half.
First, Corcoran blazed a goal chance over the bar after he had been well-placed by Smyth, before Diarmuid Murphy converted a 30-metre free after a harsh call on Paul Murphy. Donagh O’Sullivan added a point from play, before Diarmuid Murphy sent over from a ’65 with the last puck of the first half, leaving just a point between the teams at half-time: Monaghan 0-9 Louth 0-8.
Louth drew level in the first minute of the second half, thanks to a fine point from Callan and they took the lead for the first time when Murphy tapped over a 20-metre free for a foul on Diarmuid O’Sullivan. Murphy’s second ’65 of the game was quickly followed by a point from play, after Hugh Byrne had made a good save to deny Smyth. Monaghan finally got their first score of the half and their first score for almost half-an-hour when Stephen Lambe pointed a 70-metre free for a foul on Hilliard.
Lambe added a brace of points from 30-metre frees after fouls on Leonard and McGuigan, either side of a well-taken point by Corcoran, to keep Monaghan in touch, but Murphy continued to punish any indiscretions by the home team, as he converted a 45-metre free for a foul on Corcoran. The game exploded to life on 31 minutes, when both teams scored goals in the space of a minute. Callan got Louth’s major from close-range after he had been put through by David Dunne, but Monaghan responded almost immediately when Lambe took a pass from McGuigan and fired to the net. Monaghan were inches away from adding a second goal when McGuigan shot just wide after a Lambe free broke at the edge of the square, before Louth broke away for a point through Wesley Morrissey, who had taken a pass from fellow sub Shane Fennell.
A 30-metre free by Lambe reduced the gap back to two points, but Morrissey got on the end of a pass from Murphy to hit his second point. Any hopes of a late Monaghan comeback ended five minutes into injury-time when a point-attempt by Donagh O’Sullivan went over Byrne and into the net. Murphy hit his ninth point from a free at the death to give Louth a flattering seven-point win, which sets up a meeting with hot favourites London in the final.
Monaghan: H Byrne; A Lambe, P Murphy, P Treanor; M Treanor, P Dowdall, J McHugh; G Boyd (0-2), T Hilliard (Capt., 0-1); S Lambe (1-5, 0-4f), S Leonard (0-1), É Mac Suibhne (0-1); R Meegan, M McHugh (0-2f), B McGuigan (0-1).
Subs: G Dooley for M McHugh (55 mins), B Phelan for Mac Suibhne (inj., 58), S Roche for Meegan (67), M Murphy for P Treanor (75).
Louth: E McArdle; M Wallace, C Kerrigan, A Wallace; D Horan, R Byrne (Capt.), Donagh O’Sullivan (1-1); G Smyth (0-1f), D Dunne; D Kettle, S Callan (1-1), D Murphy (0-9, 5f, 2 ‘65s); Diarmuid O’Sullivan, P Brennan, B Corcoran (0-3).
Subs: S Fennell for Smyth (50), W Morrissey (0-2) for Diarmuid O’Sullivan (65), D O’Hanrahan for Brennan (74).
Referee: P Murphy (Carlow).