Death of Under-20 captain casts shadow on Monaghan victory over Armagh

Monaghan play their way into Ulster final for the first time since 2015

Conor McManus celebrates a Monaghan   score against Armagh at Pairc Esler, Newry. Photograph: John McVitty/Inpho

Conor McManus celebrates a Monaghan score against Armagh at Pairc Esler, Newry. Photograph: John McVitty/Inpho

 

Armagh 2-21 Monaghan 4-17

Sometimes a game is more than a game. The tragic backdrop of the death of Monaghan Under-20 captain Brendan Óg Duffy on Friday night cast a shadow over everything pre-game in Newry, before Monaghan did justice to his memory.

Four first-half goals helped them to a nine point lead by half time, the sensational Jack McCarron scoring one and setting up the other three. The gap was still seven at the second-half water break, before Armagh’s subs had an incredible impact, Conor Turbitt guiding a Rian O’Neill delivery to the net off his knuckles, and Tiernan Kelly netting.

An Oisín O’Neill point put Armagh two up with six minutes left before Conor McManus was fouled for three frees and put them over, Stephen O’Hanlon’s late, late point ending Armagh’s season.

Monaghan will be in the Ulster final for the first time since 2015, but even in the aftermath of this win there was a crushing sense of loss in the Monaghan camp, manager Seamus McEnaney setting the tone with some thoughtful words.

“I didn’t even wake up, I got the news at half past one,” he said. “My overriding emotion is sadness, devastating. I built up a special relationship with Ogie Duffy, he was my captain on the minor team we won the Ulster championship in 2018.

“He is a great young fella and he had a great future ahead of him in that dressing room. I’m devastated for his family. Football will move on but his family will never be the same again.”

Very tough week

He continued: “We lost our main sponsor Philip Traynor in America. He was a sponsor, a supporter and one of my best friends. We had a very tough week, very difficult. We did a lot of homework this morning to get ourselves ready, to get myself ready, to get the team ready to play this game.

“We didn’t use it as a motivation in any shape or form. We talked about it and said we would park the emotions and the feelings of last night until after today and we will deal with them this evening. We had to play extremely well to win because we knew Armagh would put us to the pin of our collar.

“We played exceptionally well early on and when two points down after the goal, but we showed great character. I came in here 18 months ago and I didn’t have to build characters in the dressing room, there is loads in it.” On a burned pitch that played like a ping pong table, this game entered the annals of instant classics. Some may crib about the lack of defensive nous from both teams for long stretches. Don’t listen to those people.

Everywhere you looked there were stupendous performances from the likes of Rory Beggan who nailed two long-distance frees, the Eveready Bunny energy of Ryan McAnespie, with McCarron and McManus in attack.

Armagh had the best player on the pitch in Rian O’Neill, but they suffered with the late withdrawal through Covid of goalkeeper Blaine Hughes, his young replacement Shea Magill left hung out to dry by some sloppy defensive play.

Positives

Manager Kieran McGeeney was given another two years in charge back in August 2019. Asked about his future, he said: “There’s loads of positives. We’ve come from the Third Division to the first and doing well. There is a lot more in us. I’ll always want to be about Armagh. It’s in my blood no matter where I go. It’s been part of who I am for my whole life. but there is always an end point for everybody.

“But as long as the players want you and the county board, you will definitely sit down and chat about it, but whether it’s me or someone else they’re a good bunch, they’re going places and I’m very proud to be associated with them.”

ARMAGH: 1. S Magill; 2. J Morgan, 3. A McKay, 22. R Kennedy; 5. C O’Hanlon (0-1), 6. G McCabe (0-1), 7. C Mackin; 8. N Grimley (0-1), 9. O O’Neill (0-3); 10. J Hall, 11. R O’Neill (0-6, 3 frees), 12. J Óg Burns (0-2); 13. R Grugan (0-3, 1 free), 14. A Murnin (0-1), 15. S Campbell (0-1). Subs: 23. A Forker for McKay (29 mins), 17. C O’Neill (0-1) for O’Hanlon, 19. C Turbitt (1-1) for Grimley (both half-time), 26. T Kelly (1-0) for Hall (50 mins), 24. R McQuillan for Mackin (52 mins)

MONAGHAN: 1. R Beggan (0-2 frees); 2. K Duffy, 3. C Boyle, 4. R Wylie; 5. K O’Connell, 6. K Lavelle, 7. R McAnespie ; 8. D Hughes (1-0), 9. N Kearns (0-1); 10. M Bannigan (1-0), 11. A Mulligan, 12. D Ward (0-2); 13. C McCarthy (0-1), 14. J McCarron (1-1), 15. C McManus (1-7, 3frees, 1x mark). Subs: 22. S O’Hanlon (0-2) for McCarthy (35 mins), 20. S Carey (0-1) for Mulligan (42 mins), 19. C Walshe for O’Connell (47 mins), 17. K Hughes 12. D Ward (0-2); 13. C McCarthy (0-1), 14. J McCarron (1-1), 15. C McManus (1-7, 3frees, 1x mark). Subs 24. A Woods for Kearns (60 mins), 21. F Kelly for D Hughes (Head inj, 73 mins)

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