Epic show brings an end to Monaghan’s great hunger
Malachy O’Rourke’s men produce an inspired display to claim Ulster crown
Monaghan were 0-4 to 0-0 up after eight minutes and didn’t let Donegal score until the 32nd minute. The All-Ireland champions lost Mark McHugh to an early concussion and his absence left their defensive system in ruins. The McGee brothers had no protection in front of them and left Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus to make hay. They ended with three points apiece, Hughes vying with Mone for Man of the Match.
“It is just total elation,” said McManus. “You don’t know what to do afterwards. But this is what we have been preparing for, this is what we have been working for. We set out at the start of the year to get promotion, to win a league final in Croke Park and to win an Ulster Championship so I make that three out of three.
“Malachy has been absolutely brilliant. He just came in and gave us a real sense of fresh air. We had just suffered two relegations on the bounce and Malachy came in, he took it just one game at a time and he brought us to Croke Park for a league final and we went back to work then for five or six weeks to prepare for a championship. It has just been magic, the whole thing.”
For Donegal, the inquest will have to be rapid and brief. They have Laois next weekend and will go in wondering where exactly they left their mojo.
At times here yesterday, you were hard pushed to work out where their next score was coming from. None of their forwards scored from play. For the last 15 minutes, they were reduced to sticking Michael Murphy at full-forward and hammering high balls in at him.
McGuinness has a job on his hands turning them around in the space of a week.
“No excuses, the better team won,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. They came here with a lot of hunger, a lot of passion you have to take your hat off to them. For us now we have been very good champions up until this point and we need to be that now.
“Things weren’t going right for us . . . For me that’s what football is all about. You have to stay with it when things aren’t going right. Can you continue to retain your composure and your belief in things? That’s a challenge. If they’re not going right, they’re not going right. There was a lot of balls bouncing around that ended up in Monaghan hands today. We wish them all the best.”