Monaghan take title


Fourteen-man Monaghan staged a late and dramatic finish to take their first ever All-Ireland B title at the expense of 13-man Fermanagh at Scotstown yesterday.

All three players were sent off midway through the second half after a single incident, with the game very finely balanced. The flare-up was totally out of character with the rest of the game, which was played in a very sporting manner.

The sendings-off were a particularly bad blow for Fermanagh as they have lost two of their halfback line, Kieran Gallagher and Raymond Johnson, for next Sunday's National League game against Cavan.

Monaghan's Damian Freeman will miss out on the game against Down.

Fermanagh enjoyed the better of the exchanges in the opening half and exploited a degree of uncertainty in the Monaghan defence that saw them concede a number of free kicks that were converted by Rory Gallagher and Tom Brewster to keep Fermanagh marginally in front.

Fermanagh led at half-time 0-7 to 0-6; although the sides had been level on four occasions, with Monaghan playing catch-up each time.

The introduction of Declan Smyth for Monaghan at the start of the second half transformed the game. Within 90 seconds of the restart, he had found the back of the Fermanagh net, when he was on hand to punish a handling error by Dara McGrath on the Fermanagh goal-line.

The score sparked a period of hectic action with Liam McBarron and Joe Coyle exchanging points, although Monaghan missed a great chance of a second goal when Stephen McGinnity blazed past the post in front of an empty net.

Fermanagh responded with two further points from Rory Gallagher and Shane King to leave the sides tied up again at 1-7 to 010. Further end-to-end movements saw Paul O'Connor and Raymond Curran exchange scores before the issue was thrown into the melting pot with that brief flare-up that threatened the mar the entire match.

Monaghan showed a great sense of urgency afterwards and hit their opponents with three points on the trot, two from Smyth and the third when Stephen McGinnity chipped over from a very difficult angle.

Three points to the good with less than five minutes left on the clock seemed a reasonable position for Monaghan; but Fermanagh fought back with spirit, and two points from Rory Gallagher and Dara McGrath reduced Monaghan's lead to just a point going into injury time.

Any thoughts they had of even salvaging a draw were shattered in injury time when Darren Swift got a hand to a Smyth free to deflect the ball inside Cormac McAdam's right-hand post, for a four-point lead. There was no way back for the Erne men.

Monaghan: G Murphy; P McKenna, D McDermott, N Marron; D McArdle (0-1), E Murphy, J Conlon; J Coyle (0-1), P McCaul (0-1); D Freeman (0-2), M Daly, P O'Connor (0-1); S McGinnity (0-3), C Ronaghan, D Swift (1-0). Sub: D Smyth (1-2) for M Daly.

Fermanagh: C McAdam; P Courtney, P McGuinness, M Lilly; R Curran (0-1), K Gallagher, R Johnson; D McGrath (0-2), T Brewster (0-2); L McBarron (0-1), R Gallagher (0-5), C Courtney; S Maguire (0-1), C McManus, S King (0-1). Subs: C Curran for C McManus; T Callaghan for S Maguire; D McNulty for L McBarron. Ref: S Prior(Leitrim)