Monaghan take care of business in Clones to see off Down challenge

Mournemen heading for Tailteann Cup after Ulster quarter-final defeat

Monaghan 0-23 Down 2-7

Ulster Championship games don't always follow the script - neither do games between Monaghan and Down - but Saturday's quarter-final went pretty much as expected, with the home side cruising through in an unseasonable wintry Clones. Goals either side of the half-time break by Caolán Mooney and Pat Havern threatened to make a contest out of it and get the 5,500 supporters involved, but Monaghan regained their composure to outscore Down by 11 points to three thereafter.

Monaghan's dominance was underlined by the fact that all three full-backs - Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle and Ryan Wylie - were among their 11 scorers in difficult conditions. Following their relegation to Division Three of the league, Down are now bound for the inaugural Tailteann Cup.



After turbulent preparations, Down manager James McCartan acknowledged that the result went along expected lines: “One team is in Division One and the other is heading to Division Three, so you could say it went according to script. We tried to make it difficult (for Monaghan), but we hit ten wides. (Monaghan) only hit two and we needed that to be the other way round. We did the job at times, but we didn’t do it for long enough and their class showed at the end. Monaghan are a good team with classy forwards.”

The first half largely followed pre-match expectations, with a more assured Monaghan team taking control, without having to be at their best. Points by Rory Beggan, Jack McCarron and Kieran Hughes had the hosts four clear before Down eventually opened their account with a 15th-minute score by Pat Havern. A purple patch by Monaghan saw McCarron, Conor McManus, Gary Mohan, Andrew Woods and Beggan stretch their lead to eight and although a free by Andrew Gilmore ended that scoring streak, Down fell nine adrift at one stage.

A Conor Poland point and a goal against the run of play by Caolán Mooney gave Down some hope, trailing by 0-12 to 1-4 at the interval. The Mourne men began the second half with renewed purpose; Havern firing to the net within seconds to make it a two-point game. Monaghan responded well, however, with Mohan, Conor McCarthy, McCarron and McManus all on target. McCarron, fresh from his starring role against Dublin at the same venue last month, finished with 0-7 to his name as Monaghan dominated the final quarter.

Down's only two scores of the last half-hour, including added time, were from a '45 by Barry O'Hagan and a close-range free by substitute Tiarnán Rushe, who was sent off for a second booking late on. Points by Boyle, Shane Carey and McCarron continued the one-way traffic as Monaghan advanced.

Monaghan manager Séamus McEnaney said: “People might think Monaghan don’t like the favourites’ tag, but we’re after winning nine of our last eleven first-round Ulster championship matches. The Ulster championship is an unforgiving place, but the most pleasing part is how we recovered from those setbacks (conceding goals). We have a tough match in the semi-final and we’re just taking one step at a time, you can’t do anything else in the Ulster championship.”

Referring to the absence of several players from Down’s set-up, not least the low number from Kilcoo’s All-Ireland-winning side, McCartan said: “It’s not sexy to play for Down at the minute, we’re not where we want to be. We’re probably firefighting; trying to build something and blood young players.”

The two-time All-Ireland winner will be hoping Down can end their winless run later this month: “It doesn’t matter to me (what the competition is), it’s an opportunity to make some progress, but there are no gimmes in the Tailteann Cup.”

MONAGHAN: R Beggan (0-2, one free, one 45); K Duffy (0-1), C Boyle (0-1), R Wylie (capt, 0-1); R McAnespie, D Ward, C McCarthy (0-1); D Hughes, N Kearns; A Woods (0-1), K Hughes (0-1), M Bannigan; J McCarron (0-7, two frees, one mark), G Mohan (0-3, two frees), C McManus (0-4, three frees).

Subs: S Carey (0-1) for Bannigan (41 mins); D Wylie for Duffy (54); K O'Connell for D Hughes (58); C Leonard for Kearns (62); S Jones for Woods (64 mins); D Garland for O'Connell (inj, 74).

DOWN: N Kane; B McArdle, R McEvoy, P Fegan; R McCormack, N McParland, R Magill; D O'Hagan, O Murdock; C Francis, C Mooney (1-0), C Poland (0-1); A Gilmore (0-1, free), P Havern (1-1), B O'Hagan (0-2, one 45).

Subs: R O'Hare for Gilmore (inj, 30 mins); D Guinness (0-1) for Francis (40); A Doherty for McEvoy (50); T Rushe (0-1, free) for Havern (53); G Collins for McArdle (60).

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).