25 February 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Monaghan came away from their visit to the newly refurbished Athletic Grounds in Armagh on Sunday last with the bitter taste of deep disappointment after they had seen victory cruelly snatched from them in stoppage time at the end of a game where they had done enough to at least take a share of the spoils if not outright victory.
Played in very blustery conditions this was a tough contest between these near neighbours and keen rivals with tempers threatening to flare on occasion. It was a game too that produced passages of football more akin to championship time than a league match in the month of February such was the keenness of the contest as Armagh sought their first league points and Monaghan sought to build on their success against Galway.
The Monaghan defence was outstanding for the most part with Darren Hughes having an excellent game at full-back and mopping up anything that came his way while Dessie Mone at centre was often the rock on which Armagh attacks perished and he showed great intuition in setting up quick counter attacks.
Dick Clerkin and Neil McAdam worked hard in midfield although the introduction of James Lavery in the second-half did have an effect in that area.
Up front the bulk of the scoring was shared between Paul Finlay who finished with seven points, six from frees, and Conor McManus who finished with 5, three from frees and therein may lie part of the reason why Monaghan did not translate their overall superiority into what could have been a winning margin.
The game too saw the return to active service of Tomas Freeman and Owen Lennon who both came on as substitutes in the second half and while their introduction did not alter the outcome it does show that the panel is getting stronger and will be better prepared for the battles that lie ahead.
The Armagh defence was under pressure from long periods with Brendan Donaghy again getting a lot of latitude in his marking of Conor McManus and Ciaran McKeever was somewhat fortunate that he did not incur more than the yellow card he picked up at one stage. Ciaran Toner and Charlie Vernon put themselves about very forcibly in midfield but up front they relied almost exclusively on Stephen McDonnell and Rory Grogan, McDonnell getting five points, two from frees and Grogan finishing with 4, three from frees. By and large the rest of the Armagh attack was well marshaled by the Monaghan defence particularly Gareth Swift who was totally out-played by Darren Hughes.
Full report in The Northern Standard

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