Monaghan bridge 25-year gap to take Ulster title
Farney men beat Donegal at their own game and win by six points in Clones
Donegal’s Anthony Thompson tackles Monaghan’s Darren Hughes in Clones. Photograph: William Cherry/Inpho
Donegal’s Eamonn McGee with Monaghan’s Kieran Hughes at Clones. Photograph: William Cherry/Inpho/Presseye
Monaghan 0-13 Donegal 0-07: Monaghan ended a 25-year wait for an Ulster title with an utterly comprehensive 0-13 to 0-7 win over All-Ireland champions Donegal in Clones.
They totally outplayed Jim McGuinness’s side from beginning to end, with a display of huge intensity in front of a raucous crowd of 31,912. Donegal can have no complaints.
“It’s hard to describe, it’s unbelievable,” said Monaghan man-of-the-match Kieran Hughes after scoring 0-3. “Looking at Donegal players walking by with their heads down is just an incredible feeling. We knew as players, the 30 or 40 boys in the dressing room, we knew we could do it.
“The new management team coming in this year has just put the belief in and the thought of winning - we played 16 games this year and that’s our 13th win. That only installs belief.
“Yeah we are a Division Three team this year and Donegal are Division One All Ireland champions, whatever, ... we just went toe-to-toe with them. It’s hard to explain to be honest.”
It was such a curious performance from the All Ireland champions, the first half especially. They went the first half an hour without scoring, by which time they were fully five points in arrears.
Monaghan started with huge intensity and the only fault you could find with Malachy O’Rourke’s side was that they didn’t transfer enough of their dominance to the scoreboard. As it was, they were four points up after eight minutes but their shooting let them down as they tried to build on it.
Early points from the excellent Darren Hughes and Padraig Donaghy were added to by frees from Conor McManus and Rory Beggan but thereafter they couldn’t press home their advantage, failing to score for another 20 minutes. But the sheer lethargy of Donegal’s play kept Monaghan in the lead and only a late Frank McGlynn point hinted at anything like their displays of last year.
It meant the Monaghan went in at the break 0-5 to 0-2 ahead.
If anyone thought the interval was going to light a fire under Donegal or cause Monaghan to wilt, they were mistaken.
The excellent Kieran Hughes kicked three brilliant points from play in the first 10 minutes of the second half, as the Donegal full-back line creaked under the pressure.
Donegal looked clueless in attack and resorted to pushing Michael Murphy up to the edge of the square as they chased goals. But despite a couple of close shaves when McGlynn and Murphy caused confusion under the high ball, Rory Beggan’s goal survived intact.
The final score came, fittingly, from substitute Tommy Freeman to send the crowd into rapture and presage the inevitable pitch invasion.