'That was the greatest comeback i've ever experienced' - coulter
WHEN THE match referee is booed off the pitch by the winning supporters you have some idea the sort of crazy game that unfolded here, not that Down manager James McCartan was complaining.
Whatever about the missed calls for a second-half penalty that might well have cost them the victory, McCartan knew he had more than enough to be thankful for – and that includes the late appearance of Benny Coulter, when he was meant to be sitting at home still recovering from a broken ankle.
“Five minutes before half-time, me and Liam Doyle were talking, saying it’s over, there’s no way back,” was how Coulter described the situation Down found themselves in. “The penalty gave us something to work on, but that was the greatest comeback I’ve ever experienced, no doubt about it.”
McCartan agreed, at least about the penalty just before the break: “It was the changing of the game, gave us a lifeline. Nine points would have been a long, long way. But the goal gave us something to build on.
“Look, we sneaked it at the end, and that’s all. Because for much of that game Monaghan came out and showed us how to play championship football.
“We were headless for long periods of the first half. I had the phone-a-cab outside, I’d already booked it, it was so disappointing at half-time.
“I just knew they were better than that. I’d played on a lot of Down teams that maybe raised the white flag too, sitting in the dressing room like at half-time. I didn’t want them to go through that feeling.”
Given the nature of the win it was understandable why McCartan didn’t want to be drawn on some of the strange referee calls in the second half: “I try to be objective along the line, but I just thought there were a lot of big calls that didn’t go our way. I think Monaghan did fall away in the second half, we were hoping that. I’d like to think it was doing what we weren’t doing in the first half. Play with some heart on our sleeves. Put bodies on the line.
“Benny hadn’t even trained with the team. He only got six or seven minutes on the field and he still came up trumps for us. That’s Benny Coulter. Hard to keep a good man down.”
Monaghan manager Eamon McEneaney had the look of a man who needed a little more time and space to fathom how his team lost this one.
“It’s very disappointing. We might be able to draw some positives out of it but the reality is we had the game won, and gave it to them. We dropped back, let them come at us, and didn’t get the scores. In fairness Down fought for it, but we stopped doing what we did in the first half, which was lay the ball off the shooter, and let him kick it over the bar.
“All teams have these days, but Monaghan seem to have more of them. Glorious defeats are no good to anybody. They had the strong breeze in the second half, but we should have been able to keep them out. I’m proud of my players for the effort they gave. The penalty got them back in, but it was the lifeline that maybe they didn’t deserve. “
– IAN O’RIORDAN