Monaghan keep Armagh at bay in a sunny Ulster epic

Conor McManus turns the screw at the death after his side give away a commanding lead

Armagh 2-21 Monaghan 4-17

The Ulster Championship lives and breathes after this instant classic in the Marshes, Monaghan pulverising Armagh in the opening half, keeping them at bay with their jab in the third quarter before suffering a systems shut down that had them two points down with six minutes left on the clock.

It was a game, and a performance that Monaghan would have hoped to do justice to the memory of Brendan Óg Duffy, their Under-20 captain who was tragically killed on Friday night as he returned from their win over Donegal in the Ulster semi-final.

In such circumstances, platitudes are said, but what can you say? The ball was thrown into the air and a contest materialised. One that young Duffy might have been destined to compete in over the coming years.

Monaghan had the ball in the net after two minutes. A quick moving free went through Jack McCarron and Ryan McAnespie to present old stager Conor McManus with the kind of chance he always sticks away.

McCarron had a direct hand in the four Monaghan goals, all in the first half and his direct marker Aaron McKay was tortured. Once he was replaced by captain Aidan Forker, McCarron’s influence waned.

The second goal was nailed by McCarron himself after a botched kickout by Shea Magill - a late inclusion after regular goalkeeper Blaine Hughes was ruled out through Covid.

The third arrived on the quarter hour mark, McCarron burning McKay with a twist and delaying his pass perfectly for Michael Bannigan to palm home. Their final goal was a one two with Darren Hughes who followed in his pass untroubled to drill low to the net.

While going into the final quarter seven points up, the concession of goals to substitutes Conor Turbitt and Tiernan Kelly had Armagh two points up with just six minutes on the clock.

Monaghan’s Conor McManus then hit the next three scores - all frees from fouls committed on him. They will meet the winners of Donegal and Tyrone in the Ulster final.

Armagh: S Magill; J Morgan, A McKay, R Kennedy; C O'Hanlon (0-1), G McCabe (0-1), C Mackin; N Grimley (0-1), O O'Neill (0-3); J Hall, R O'Neill (0-6, three frees), J Og Burns (0-1); R Grugan (0-3, one free), A Murnin (0-1), S Campbell (0-1). Subs: A Forker for McKay (28 mins), C O'Neill (0-1) for O'Hanlon (half-time), C Turbitt (1-1) for Grimley (half-time), T Kelly (1-0) for Hall (49), R McQuillan (0-1) for Mackin (51).

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-2, two frees); K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; K O'Connell, K Lavelle, R McAnespie; D Hughes (1-0), N Kearns (0-1); M Bannigan (1-0), A Mulligan, D Ward (0-2); C McCarthy (0-1), J McCarron (1-1), C McManus (1-7, five frees). Subs: S O'Hanlon (0-2) for McCarthy (34 mins), S Carey (0-1) for Mulligan (41), C Walshe for O'Connell (47), K Hughes for lavelle (48), A Woods for Kearns (58), F Kelly for D Hughes (72).

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).