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Heartbreaking defeat for Monaghan seniors

June 24th, 2012

Ulster Senior Football Championship Semi-Final

Down 1-14 Monaghan 1-13                          24/6/12



Monaghan suffered a heartbreaking one-point defeat in a thrilling Ulster SFC semi-final against Down at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on Sunday. Monaghan’s first-half performance was their best for some time as they took a nine-point lead at one stage, with Conor McManus and Paul Finlay in sparkling form up front, but Aidan Carr converted a penalty just before half-time to give Down hope and the Mourne men were transformed in the second half. Tommy Freeman came off the bench to rattle the net and regain the initiative for Monaghan, but Down hit four points without reply in the last five minutes to squeeze through to the final. Conor Laverty, Ambrose Rogers, Carr, Darren O’Hagan and Kalum King led Down’s remarkable comeback, while McManus, Finlay, Dessie Mone and Drew Wylie were best for Monaghan.

Darren Hughes marked his return to action as early as the fourth minute when he won and scored a 50-metre free and Paul Finlay also showed he had put his shoulder injury behind him when he took a pass from Kieran Hughes and swung over a beautiful score from almost on the right sideline. Conor McManus won the following kick-out and kicked his first point of the game, but Down got on the scoreboard in the ninth minute when Ambrose Rogers converted a 45-metre free for a foul on Conor Laverty. A vital interception by Owen Lennon kept Down out a couple of minutes later, before McManus linked up with James Turley to kick a great point.

McManus then won and scored a 30-metre free and Finlay added a similar effort to open up a five-point gap after Brendan McArdle had been penalised for over-carrying. Finlay and Donal O’Hare swapped points from close-range frees after fouls on McManus and Rogers, who then had a shot saved by Mark Keogh after he had been released by O’Hare. McManus landed a free from 45 metres out and another from out on the left wing, both after fouls on Kieran Hughes, while Down went close with shots by Kevin McKernan, which hit an upright, and Rogers, who was blocked by Lennon.

Finlay added a right-footed point to Monaghan’s tally after a good interception by Dessie Mone, before Dick Clerkin got on the end of a Turley pass to kick a left-footed score and move Monaghan nine clear. Disaster struck just before the interval, however, when Laverty was brought down by Vincent Corey and Aidan Carr drilled his penalty low, to his left and just beyond the despairing dive of Mark Keogh. That reduced Monaghan’s lead to six at half-time: 0-11 to 1-2.

Down emerged after the break like a different team and after missing a couple of chances, they took a point off their deficit courtesy of a 30-metre free by O’Hare, following a foul on Laverty. Substitute Kevin Duffin finally got Down’s first score from play on 44 minutes at the end of a move started by a Kalum King catch and O’Hare added another free after he had been fouled off the ball. A move started by a great catch by McArdle finished with Laverty taking a pass from Mark Poland and splitting the posts, before Finlay hit an upright on a rare Monaghan attack led by a Stephen Gollogly run.

Laverty got on the end of a pass from Carr to take another nice point and make it 1-5 without reply for Down, before McManus released Turley at the other end, only for Down keeper Brendan McVeigh to come to his side’s rescue. Darren Hughes nailed the resulting ’45 to end 20 scoreless minutes for Monaghan, but Laverty then turned provider for Carr to loft over a fine score. Monaghan looked to be on their way once again when a quickly-taken free by McManus set up substitute Tommy Freeman to make a quick impact with a powerful and precise finish past McVeigh, but O’Hare got a couple of points from 30-metre frees back for Down, following fouls on Conor Garvey and Liam Doyle.

Finlay tapped over a 13-metre free for a foul on McManus to leave Monaghan three up with seven minutes remaining, but Benny Coulter’s first involvement was to take a pass from King and slot the ball over the bar and fellow sub Liam Doyle added a point from a 25-metre free after a foul on Laverty. A foul on Poland allowed Carr to equalise from a 45-metre free going into injury-time and Carr was again involved less than a minute later when his long, hopeful punt fell for Darren O’Hagan to fist the winning point. There was still time for Monaghan to make one more chance, but Clerkin’s effort tailed to the left and wide.

Down will play either Donegal or Tyrone in the Ulster SFC Final, while Monaghan head for the second round of the qualifiers on July 14/15.



Down: B McVeigh; C Garvey, G McCartan, B McArdle; D McCartan, D O’Hagan (0-1), K McKernan; A Rogers (Capt., 0-1f), K King; D Hughes, M Poland, A Carr (1-2, 1-0 pen, 0-1f); D O’Hare (0-5f), C Laverty (0-2), E McCartan.

Subs: K Duffin (0-1) for D McCartan (20 mins), L Doyle (0-1f) for Duffin (62), B Coulter (0-1) for O’Hare (66).


Monaghan: M Keogh; C Walshe, V Corey, D Wylie; Darren Hughes (Capt., 0-2, 1f, 1 ‘45), D Mone, K O’Connell; O Lennon, D Clerkin (0-1); P Dooney, S Gollogly, J Turley; K Hughes, P Finlay (0-5, 3f), C McManus (0-5, 3f).

Subs: K Duffy for Dooney, T Freeman (1-0) for K Hughes (50), N McAdam for Turley (66), C Hanratty for Gollogly (70).


Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).

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