Monaghan survive shaky ending to end barren run against Tyrone

Defending Ulster champions failed to score in closing 14 minutes in Clones

Monaghan 1-12 Tyrone 0-14

It was nervy stuff in the end but Monaghan flopped over the line and ended a run of championship defeats to Tyrone that stretched all the way back to 1988. Despite not scoring for the closing 14 minutes, they just about had enough in hand when the final whistle blew.

Monaghan’s day was going well even before a ball was thrown in when the news filtered through that Conor McManus was fit to start the game. Whether that was strictly the case is a matter for argument however, as McManus was clearly labouring from early on. He had none of the pace off the mark that has made him such a dangerous forward, and an All Star last year, and for most of the early exchanges his inclusion looked like a gamble too far.

And yet, as the half wore on, his influence grew – most obviously from frees. He kicked four in the first half alone and contributed handsomely to Monaghan’s half-time 0-8 to 0-7 lead. In truth, their margin should have been bigger than that.

The fact that Tyrone had two championship games already under their belt was obvious enough as they started the better. Points from Darren McCurry and Ciarán McGinley were handily taken, the Tyrone forwards finding space with uncommon ease. But Monaghan grew into it as the half went on, and with the assistance of some fairly benign refereeing from Eddie Kinsella, started building a score.

Kieran Hughes was a huge handful in the Monaghan full forward line and with Dermot Malone buzzing around the forward line as well, Monaghan gradually got the upper hand. They spurned three goal chances, including a penalty from Kieran Hughes in the 22nd minute.

Having led by those two points at the break, they kicked on at the start of the second half. Malone finally breached the Tyrone goal after a brilliant crossfield ball from Dick Clerkin found Darren Hughes around 40 metres from goal.

Hughes ran at the Tyrone defence and drew the cover before feeding Malone whose finish was assured into Niall Morgan bottom corner. It put Monaghan four points up and they duly increased their lead to five soon after with a point from the excellent Fintan Kelly.

But Tyrone are nothing if not resilient. Mattie Donnelly – a prime contender for man of the match – strode forward for his third point of the day. Conor McAliskey came off the bench to nail a couple of his own. With a minute to go, Niall Morgan came up for a free to level it and only just put it wide.

Monaghan held on and go on to meet Armagh in the semi-final. Tyrone will play Louth in the qualifiers.

TYRONE: N Morgan (0-2, one free, one 45); A McCrory, J McMahon, R McNamee; R McNabb, Mattie Donnelly (0-3), P Harte; C Cavanagh, C Grugan; M Penrose, S Cavanagh (0-1), C McGinley (0-1); D McCurry (0-4, two frees), S O' Neill, R O'Neill. Subs: C Gormley for McNabb (half-time); C McAliskey (0-3, one free) for R O'Neill (42 mins); K Coney for Grugan (42 mins); Mark Donnelly for McGinley (53 mins); PJ Lavery for McCurry (60 mins, black card).

MONAGHAN: R Beggan (0-2, one free, one 45); C Walshe, D Wylie, F Kelly (0-2); D Mone, V Corey, K Duffy; D Clerkin, D Hughes; R Wylie, C McGuinness, P McKenna; D Malone (1-0), K Hughes (0-2), Conor McManus (0-6, all frees). Subs: P Donaghy for McKenna; C Boyle for Duffy (both half-time); S Gollogly for McGuinness (55 mins); K McConnell for Boyle (61 mins); P Finlay for Malone (62 mins, black card); J McCarron for D Hughes (66 mins, black card).

Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois)