Epic show brings an end to Monaghan’s great hunger
Malachy O’Rourke’s men produce an inspired display to claim Ulster crown
Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke celebrates after the game: Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
It’s like Kavanagh said – the gods make their own importance. Monaghan beat the All Ireland champions by 0-13 to 0-7 in Clones yesterday but even that sort of boast felt altogether too grand last night. This was local, this was parochial. What it says about the grander scheme of things didn’t much matter to them. What mattered was that for the first time since 1988, they are Ulster champions.
They fed Donegal through more or less the same kind of mincer Jim McGuinness’s side have perfected themselves.
Breathless intensity from the start, a blanket defence of iron will and huge concentration and a forward line that kept the sillier shot choices to a minimum. Kieran Hughes made Eamonn McGee look ordinary, Drew Wylie kept Colm McFadden on the periphery of the game all day. Dessie Mone looked like Karl Lacey in a white shirt.
And all of it against every bit of received wisdom in the run up to the game. Outside of London’s various gaiscí, it was the biggest shock of a championship that probably needed one.
The relentless roll of the big teams towards the quarter-finals a fortnight from now had left the whole thing feeling a little moribund.
Yet again, the oldest motivation in sport worked its magic. Nobody believed in Monaghan but themselves. But then how could anyone? After crawling through the easier side of the draw, they looked fodder for a Donegal show of strength. We all knew Monaghan would hang with them for much of it. We couldn’t have seen them winning by six points.
“You’re bound to get a bit of energy out of that,” said Malachy O’Rourke. “But we could understand why it was because Donegal have been brilliant in the championship over the last number of years. And we didn’t play all that well.
“But I knew there was a big performance in the boys and I told them that. People were judging us on the performances against Antrim and Cavan and we weren’t judging ourselves on those performances. We knew there was more to come and luckily enough that’s what happened today.
“An awful lot of them boys have given an awful lot to football and that was one of the things that pushed us. Donegal wanted to come here and win three-in-a-row but the lads there have put so much into football and made so many sacrifices and hadn’t got any silverware. So it was a big motivating factor and it was a big chance and they didn’t want to let it up too easy.”