Power NI Dr. McKenna Cup Semi-Final
Monaghan 1-12 Down 0-13 20/1/13
Two injury-time points by Darren Hughes gave Monaghan a hard-earned win in Sunday’s Dr. McKenna Cup semi-final against Down in Armagh. Monaghan looked to be on their way out when they trailed by two points late on, but a point from the outstanding Conor McManus and a brace by Hughes booked a place in the county’s first McKenna Cup Final since 2006. Monaghan were fortunate to be on level terms after a first half in which they played second fiddle for the most part, with McManus keeping them in touch, but they improved after the restart and showed real hunger in the closing stages to get over the line. McManus had good support from Hughes, Ronan McNally and Owen Coyle, while Mark Poland and Connaire Harrison led the way for Down in a game where both teams had a man sent off in the second half.
Connaire Harrison got on the end of a high ball from Keith Quinn to open the scoring with just short of a minute gone, before Donal O’Hare doubled Down’s lead from a 35-metre free after a foul on Mark Poland. Conor McManus brought Monaghan into the game, winning and scoring a 13-metre free on five minutes and curling over a superb sideline kick from the left corner. A strong run by Arthur McConville set up a point for Quinn, who then won a 40-metre free for O’Hare to send between the uprights, before Poland added a point from play.
McManus brought Monaghan back to within two when he tapped over a 20-metre free for a foul on Dermot Malone and he then gave them the lead against the run of play when he raced onto s Darren Hughes pass. played a one-two with Owen Duffy and fired a precise finish past Down keeper Michael Cunningham. O’Hare replied from a 30-metre free after a foul on Harrison and Down regained the lead when a patient build-up ended with Harrison setting up Arthur McConville to split the posts, with Poland quickly tagging on a good point. Owen Duffy responded with a well-taken score off his left foot and McManus then won and scored a 35-metre free to leave Monaghan level at half-time: 1-5 to 0-8.
Monaghan were first off the mark in the second half through the predictable source of McManus, who finished with style at the end of a well-worked move involving Owen Duffy, Malone and Pádraig Donaghy. Down full-forwards O’Hare and Harrison combined to create a point for Ryan Mallon and they went ahead thanks to Poland’s third of the game, only for Clerkin to equalise. Harrison landed a point to restore Down to the lead, but they were reduced to 14 men on 45 minutes when Quinn was shown a second yellow card after an off-the-ball tussle with Karl O’Connell.
McManus linked up with substitute Paul Finlay to take his tally to 1-6 and although Poland edged Down ahead once more at the end of a counter-attack involving Declan Rooney and Conor Gough, a foul on Owen Duffy allowed Finlay to convert a 20-metre free and make it all-square inside the last ten minutes. Monaghan had O’Connell sent off when he picked up a second booking for a high tackle on Conor Laverty, with sub Danny Savage sending the free over the bar, but Kieran Hughes released McManus for another fine point in the last minute of normal time. Darren Hughes then took over, landing a brace of outside-of-the-boot efforts to swing it for Monaghan in an exciting finish.
Monaghan: M Keogh; R McNally, D Wylie, O Coyle; K O’Connell, Darren Hughes (0-2), K Duffy; D Clerkin (0-1), O Lennon; K Hughes, P Donaghy, N McAdam; D Malone, C McManus (Capt., 1-7, 0-3f, 1 s-l), O Duffy (0-1).
Subs: F Kelly for Wylie (inj., 24), P Finlay (0-1f) for Clerkin (46), M McElroy for Coyle (inj., 50), G Doogan for Donaghy (68).
Down: M Cunningham; P Turley, D McCartan, R Boyle; D Rooney, A Carr, R Mallon (0-1); K King, K McKernan (Capt.); D Turley, M Poland (0-4), K Quinn (0-1); A McConville (0-1), C Harrison (0-2), D O’Hare (0-3f).
Subs: D Savage (0-1f) for McConville (42), C Laverty for D Turley (43), D McKibben for P Turley (49), C Gough for King (54), P McComiskey for O’Hare (62).
Referee: N Mooney (Cavan).