Monaghan take the spoils to qualify for the Ulster final as Cavan rue late refereeing call

Ulster SFC semi-final: Monaghan 1-10 Cavan 0-12

Monaghan’s Dick Clerkin shows his delight at the final whistle after victory over Cavan at Clones. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Monaghan’s Dick Clerkin shows his delight at the final whistle after victory over Cavan at Clones. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho


They tell you that refereeing decisions pretty much even themselves out eventually. What they don’t tell you is the day or the hour. Or, maybe most crucial of all, the context.

Marty Duffy made two out-and-out howlers in Clones on Saturday night and the fact that Monaghan were on the wrong end of one and Cavan the other would usually mean that all’s fair in love and war and Ulster football. Yet the way it all shook out meant Cavan were entitled to feel hard done by.

At face value, Monaghan are arguably more sinned against. The game was only four minutes old when corner-forward Christopher McGuinness got through on goal and though he fluffed his shot, the ball squirted towards the net all the same.

That it didn’t go over the line was down to a blatant scoop off the ground with his hand by Cavan centre-back Alan Clarke. It was a cast-iron penalty but Duffy missed it.

Spool the tape on to the very last play of the game and with Monaghan a point up, Conor McManus tried to kill the clock by kicking a free back to goalkeeper Rory Beggan. Collecting 20 metres from goal, Beggan was set upon by two Cavan tacklers and in his blind panic to escape he took 13 steps with the ball. It was an obvious free but the referee let it go.

Two decisions, two non-awards. One a penalty with the game barely started, the other a free in front of the posts with the last kick of the night. Maybe it does all even itself out in the end.

But Monaghan are in an Ulster final because they had the whole game to recover. Cavan are in the qualifiers because the final whistle came 10 seconds later. So spins the wheel.

“That’s the referee’s call,” said Terry Hyland afterwards. “I can’t answer for him. If he didn’t think it was a free, then it wasn’t a free. I can only give my opinion. I felt it should have been a free in. But my opinion doesn’t really count.”

Though a draw wouldn’t have been a libel on the game, Monaghan probably just about earned their passage. With Colin Walshe and sweeper Kieran Duffy outstanding in defence, they gradually shut down the dangerous trio of Cian Mackey, Eugene Keating and Martin Dunne.

Cavan didn’t score from play in the whole of the second half and for the third game in a row they failed to press home their advantage when they were dominant in the early stages.

They kicked four wides before they scored a point and gave away a careless goal to McGuinness on 13 minutes after Conor Gilsenan made a hash of a kick-out.

With 20 minutes gone, they were 0-5 to 1-0 ahead thanks to well-taken scores from Keating, Mackey, Niall McDermott and David Givney (two) but a two-point lead felt like a slight reward.

And so it proved, as McManus finally worked his way into the game, kicking a point from play and adding another couple from frees. With the Hughes brothers, Kieran and Darren, also becoming more of a force as Monaghan found their feet, they steadily reeled Cavan in and by half-time the sides were level at 1-5 to 0-8.

The second half was tit-for-tat stuff. Monaghan pushed Paul Finlay and Dick Clerkin into the fray and as the game wore on, their greater experience and power began to tell. McManus was a class apart, stitching the first point of the half and later swinging over the score of the day eight minutes from time to ensure a lead Monaghan didn’t let go of.

They move on to their third Ulster final in seven seasons and, unlike their last one against Tyrone in 2010, they go in with nobody giving them a prayer.

Like most teams in Ulster now, they play a system that is a facsimile of Donegal’s – blanket defence, huge work-rate, turnovers the key. And they do it reasonably well.

As Dick Clerkin said afterwards, Monaghan have played in three competitions so far this year and reached three finals. Can’t say much fairer than that.

Whether it’s enough to give Donegal a game will come down to the economy of their shooting. They kicked 12 wides on Saturday night, eight more than Donegal kicked against Down in the other semi-final.

“You don’t need me to tell you that if we play like that in the final against Donegal, we’re not going to win the game,” said Malachy O’Rourke. “Donegal are on a different level altogether and people will say we came through the easier side of the draw. Which is probably right.

“Donegal are going for three in a row. It’s going to be a massive, massive task for us. But we’re there. At least we’re there and we have the chance to put our best foot forward in an Ulster final.”
MONAGHAN: R Beggan; D Mone, D Wylie, C Walshe; V Corey, N McAdam, K Duffy; O Lennon, D Hughes (0-1); S Gollogly, T Freeman, G Doogan; C McGuinness (1-0), K Hughes (0-1), C McManus (0-6, 0-3 frees). Subs: P Finlay (0-2, 0-2 frees) for Freeman, (44 mins), D Clerkin for Doogan ( 51 mins), K O’Connell for McAdam ( 58); P Donaghy for McGuinness (64), D Malone for Gollogly (72)
CAVAN: C Gilsenan (0-1); J McLoughlin, R Dunne, K Clarke; J McEnroe (0-1), A Clarke, R Flanagan; D O’Reilly, D Givney (0-2); C Mackey (0-1), K Brady, F Flanagan; N McDermott (0-3, 0-2 frees), M Dunne (0-3, 0-2 frees), E Keating (0-1). Subs: M Reilly for K Brady (49 mins); T Corr for McEnroe (60 mins), K Tierney for Dunne (69 mins), J Brady for McDermott ( 69 mins).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).