Power NI Dr. McKenna Cup Section B
Armagh 0-13 Monaghan 0-12 18/1/12
Monaghan finished their Dr. McKenna Cup campaign with a much-improved performance away to Armagh on Wednesday evening, but they still left the Athletic Grounds empty-handed after a one-point defeat. Monaghan raised their game several gears from last Sunday’s defeat at home to Down and they stayed with Armagh all the way in a game where the sides were level eight times, but a last-gasp point from a free by Paul Carvill – his third long-range free of a 20-minute cameo – settled it. Monaghan had more than enough chances to win the match, particularly after Armagh had James Lavery sent off midway through the second half, but nine second-half wides proved costly.
Eugene McVerry, Anto Duffy, Finnian Moriarty and super-sub Carville were the match-winners for Armagh. Monaghan made three changes from the Down game, with Rory Beggan making his debut in goals ahead of Mark Keogh, David Millar getting a first start in place of Shane Smyth and David Hughes returning from DIT to replace Ciarán Daly. The excellent Paul Finlay continued his prolific form by scoring eight points (four from play), while Darren Hughes, Owen Duffy and Dermot Malone were also on form.
Armagh were first off the mark on three minutes through a 30-metre free from Eugene McVerry after a foul on Ciarán McKeever, but Owen Duffy brought Monaghan level a minute later, following a short free by Paul Finlay. McVerry tapped over a 20-metre free after a late tackle on Anto Duffy, but a well-worked move involving Ronan McNally, Karl O’Connell, Matthew McKenna and Ciarán Hanratty created an equalising point for Finlay, who quickly edged Monaghan ahead with a fine finish after James Turley had won the resulting kick-out.
Anto Duffy linked up with Ryan Rafferty to bring Armagh back on level terms and they retook the lead when McVerry swung over a well-taken score off his left foot. David Lavery doubled the hosts’ advantage when he got on the end of a nice pass from Brian Mallon to fist over, but Dermot Malone and Stephen Gollogly combined to set up Owen Duffy for a good point.
McVerry sent over an excellent score off the outside of his boot after good work by Anto Duffy and Rafferty, before Hanratty delayed too long on a goal chance after he had skinned his marker, Declan McKenna. Monaghan still trailed by two points with just over two minutes to go until half-time, but a good pass from James Turley released Finlay for a trademark point and Monaghan’s top scorer added his fourth of the match from a 20-metre free after Armagh goalkeeper Seán Hughes had touched the ball on the ground to level the scores at 0-6 apiece at the interval.
Monaghan made a bright start to the second half as Gollogly tapped over a close-range free for a foul on Hanratty. The visitors were unlucky not to add to their tally, with the left upright denying Dermot Malone and Seán Hughes surviving a nervy moment when he managed to hold onto a high ball from Finlay at the second attempt. An incisive attack involving David Millar and Hanratty set up a goal chance for Owen Duffy, who fired over the bar, before Finlay converted a 30-metre free for a foul on Malone.
Finnian Moriarty got a point back for Armagh before winning a 30-metre free for McVerry to send between the posts. Anto Duffy landed a good point to bring the hosts back on level terms on 50 minutes, but Armagh were reduced to 14 men a minute later when James Lavery was shown a second yellow card for a trip on David Hughes. A foul on James Turley allowed Finlay to kick his sixth point from a 20-metre free, but Armagh sub Paul Carville made a quick impact by booting over a brace of 40-metre frees after fouls on Duffy and Peter Carragher. Finlay equalised once again from a 30-metre free following a foul on Vincent Corey and Monaghan should have hit the front inside the last ten minutes, but for some poor finishing. The best chance came when Millar broke through after good approach play by Malone and Duffy, only to hit an upright from close range.
A breaking ball at the other end went Armagh’s way after Charlie Vernon had been blocked by Darren Hughes and landed for sub Colm Watters to blaze over the bar, but Monaghan hit back when Finlay took a pass from sub Christopher McGuinness to curl over a superb score from a tight angle. There was still time for Carville to make another telling intervention, however, as referee Martin Higgins adjudged Darren Hughes to have fouled McKeever, and even after the referee and linesman took their time in deciding where to place the ball, Carville made no mistake from all of 50 metres to give Armagh a dramatic victory.
The win wasn’t enough for Armagh to qualify for the semi-finals, so both teams now have two and a half weeks to prepare for the start of the National Football League. Monaghan start their Division Two campaign away to Meath on February 4.
Armagh: S Hughes; B Donaghy, C Vernon, D McKenna; P Duffy, C McKeever (Capt.), F Moriarty (0-1); M Mackin, J Lavery; D Lavery (0-1), B Mallon, A Duffy (0-2); R Rafferty, G Swift, E McVerry (0-5, 3f).
Subs: P Carragher for Swift, C Watters (0-1) for B Mallon (both 33 mins), C Watters for B Mallon (42), P Carvill (0-3f) for D Lavery (51).
Monaghan: R Beggan; D Morgan, Darren Hughes (Capt.), D Malone; R McNally, V Corey, K O’Connell; David Hughes, J Turley; M McKenna, S Gollogly (0-1f), D Millar; C Hanratty, P Finlay (0-8, 4f), O Duffy (0-3).
Subs: B O’Brien for McKenna (42), C McGuinness for Hanratty (60), S Smyth for O’Connell (66).
Referee: M Higgins (Fermanagh).
Monaghan manager Eamon McEneaney was happy with the improvement in his team’s performance, but was nonetheless disappointed to have lost out the way they had done. “We got a much-improved performance but it’s hard to take losing a game like that when you have eight wides in a row and you have all the chances to win the game in the world and you don’t take them. We have to get fellas back out on the field. It’s quite clear, that’s the bottom line.”
He stressed the need for other players to step up and take some of the scoring burden off Paul Finlay, saying “There was a lot of good, hard work done by the guys out there tonight, but you need a bit of class and quality to finish the game, you can’t be depending on Paul Finlay to kick all of them, we need more scores from more people and that’s what we will be looking to get over the next few weeks. In terms of Sunday’s performance (against Down), there’s no comparison; tonight was a much-improved performance and we’d be very pleased with the level of commitment from the boys there, but the reality was we struggled to get a team out because of all the fellas that are away playing.”