Monaghan secure first McKenna Cup for 19 years despite Michael Murphy magic

Donegal star comes off the bench at half-time but his side’s comeback effort falls just short

Monaghan 1-11 Donegal 0-13

Monaghan allowed a nine-point lead to slip, but still managed to do just enough to secure their first Dr McKenna Cup title in 19 years.

Dessie Ward’s early goal proved crucial in the end at O’Neills Healy Park, as they just held out in the face of a Michael Murphy-inspired comeback.

Murphy came off the bench at half-time and swung the game in Donegal’s favour, hitting six points to drag his side back into the contest.


Monaghan defended in numbers and broke at pace, hitting the classic counter-attack goal after just four minutes as Ward collected Jack McCarron’s assist to rifle his shot past Rory Beggan.

Paddy McBrearty and Charles McGuinness kept Donegal in touch, but they struggled to break through the defensive cordon, and trailed by 1-7 to 0-4 at half-time, after Micheal Bannigan, Andrew Woods and Shane Carey had hit the target.

A strong start to the second half saw Monaghan stretch the advantage with scores from Bannigan and Colin Walsh, and Aaron Muligan was denied a goal by Michael Lynch’s excellent save.

But the men from the north west were now more assured and tenacious at the back, and Murphy began to pull the strings, chipping away at the deficit with a string of points from frees.

Rory Beggan had to be at his best to save from Caolan McGonagle after he was sent through by Ethan O’Donnell, and Monaghan went 18 minutes without a score before McCarron converted a free.

Donegal continued to press strongly, Murphy bringing his tally to six, and Michael Langan punching over a score, but the Farney men held out for a morale-boosting win on the ground where they will face All-Ireland champions Tyrone in their opening League game next weekend.

Monaghan: R Beggan; S Hanratty, K Duffy, R Wylie; R McAnespie, C Walsh (0-1), C McCarthy; D Hughes, K Lavelle; S Carey (0-2), M Bannigan (0-5, three frees), D Ward (1-0); A Mulligan, J McCarron (0-2, two frees), A Woods (0-1). Subs: N Kearns for Lavelle (half-time), D Garland for Carey (half-time), K O'Connell for McCarthy (43), F Kelly for Walsh (43), C Boyle for Wylie (54), D Wylie for Hughes (54), G Mohan for Woods (57), Mealiff for Mulligan (70).

Donegal: M Lynch; C Ward, B McCole, E Ban Gallagher; R McHugh (0-1), P Brennan, T McClenaghan; J McGee, C Thompson (0-1); O McFadden Ferry, P Mogan, S O'Donnell; P McBrearty (0-3, one free), C McGuinness (0-1, free), C O'Donnell. Subs: M Murphy (0-6, five frees) for McGuinness (half-time), E O'Donnell for O'Donnell (half-time), C McGonagle for Brennan (half-time), N O'Donnell for C O'Donnell (48), M Langan (0-1) for McGee (51), J McKelvey for McClenaghan (53), E Doherty for McFadden Ferry (57).

Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).