22 July 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Monaghan United 1
Mervue United 2

A shellshocked Monaghan United went down to only their third league defeat of the season when they were unable to fully retrieve the deficit of two own goal concessions despite having the monopoly of play against Mervue United at Gortakeegan on Friday night, writes Peter Hughes.
It was Mervue’s second victory over the Mons this season, and the Galway men’s emerging reputation as a United bogey side reached full flower in a bizarre game. Leaving aside the ill-fortune that saw Paul Whelan and Eric Foley beat their own ‘keeper Gabriel Sava in each half,
Mervue had less than a handful of chances in the course of the game and while the Mons’ performance was less than note perfect, with their late attempts to draw level denoted by desperation rather than the calm incision they have brought to such circumstances heretofore in the season, it is still a perplexing puzzle how at least a share of the spoils slipped away from them in this one.
Mervue shaped positively at the outset, and Mons captain Alan Byrne had to make an assertive defensive header from a free-kick swept in from the left wing by Alan Lee. United’s attempt to build momentum was briefly interrupted when a coming together of Mervue’s Pat Hoban and Ryan Brennan as they chased down a Gabriel Sava clearance led to some minutes of treatment for the home midfielder.
The first real Mons threat came from an Eric Foley free, David Byrne crafting space to head the ball back across goal only for Gerard Hanley in the Mervue goal to snatch away the danger.
Magnificent defending by Shane Grimes stymied the snap-shot of Rory Gaffney and when the Mons swept upfield Keith Quinn won a free-kick from which Sean Brennan’s low curler was well anticipated by Hanley.
But just as United seemed to be getting on top, calamity struck.
Gaffney shrugged off the attentions of Alan Byrne – no mean feat in itself – and then blazed in a cross that resulted in the unfortunate Paul Whelan turning the ball past his own goalkeeper.
The painful concession brought added impetus to the Mons’ attacking play, David Byrne testing Hanley again with a technically impressive shot on the turn. Then Ryan Brennan powered a drive narrowly over the bar at the end of a sweeping move initiated by a clever Eric Foley chip over the defence for the busy Quinn to latch onto.
United built the pressure into an irresistible pitch, and the equaliser duly came in the 26th minute.
A fine move across the breadth of the pitch culminated in a surging run down the right flank by John Reilly, and from his cut-back David Byrne produced a crisp finish to level the scores.
Mervue were now under the cosh – Hanley made a fantastic fingertip save from John Reilly, and impressed again when getting down to smother an acrobatic Ryan Brennan effort from brother Sean’s corner. The Mervue custodian then made it a hat-trick of top drawer stops from Alan Byrne’s bullet header on the half-hour.
Johnny Glynn’s men relieved the siege for a time, but Mons rocked them back on their heels with a 38th minute Sean Brennan special from outside the box that shaved the outside of the post with Hanley diving despairingly.
Anticipatory calls of ‘Top corner’ came from the stands as Sean Brennan stepped up to a 40th minute free-kick, but the low effort, which thudded off the wall, was a disappointment. The fans were off their seats, however, when Eric Foley made a mazy run into the box, but it also ended anti-climactically in a corner from which Alan Byrne knocked his header too high.
Mervue had struggled to create any attacking threat since their goal, but right at the end of the half Kevin Crehan latched on to what had looked an overcooked cross and flashed in a first-time right foot volley that skimmed the crossbar.
The visitors came out of the blocks pretty sharpish for the second half, Mike Collins curling a shot shy of the top corner from outside the box.
The Mons riposte was another greyhound dash down the right by Reilly, his cross taken away from the waiting Sean Brennan by James Casserley’s headed flick.
Pat Hoban, whose ongoing duel with Ryan Brennan was a feature of the midfield play – one a subject of close scrutiny by referee Phil Caschera – ventured forward to essay a 55th minute shot but the effort lacked direction.
Eric Foley was yellow carded for a foul on Gaffney a minute later, from which Hoban teed up John Mountrey for a fierce hit that Ryan Brennan blockaded bravely.
More Mons pressure forced a corner from which David Byrne had two decent headed chances. He just failed to connect with the first but the second had Hanley backtracking, and relieved when it dropped behind.
A magnificent 61st minute break from midfield led by John Reilly saw David Byrne crossing for substitute Jordan Keegan, whose first-time hit was high of the mark. A little lower, and it would have been one of the gems of the Gortakeegan season.
Alex Lee relieved the pressure for the visitors with a decent run and cross that Philip Byrne headed behind for a corner. John Mountrey struck a firm ball to the near post, and there was a horror moment for Eric Foley when his attempted interception went all wrong and the ball flew past a stunned Gabriel Sava to gift Mervue an unlikely lead.
Roddy Collins sent on Michael Isichei in place of full-back Whelan in an attempt to retrieve the situation. A Foley free-kick saw a Philip Byrne header saved by Hanley as the Mons proceeded to throw everything at the Galway men, for whom Kevin Crehan was booked for fouling Keith Quinn.
The resultant free was swallowed up in a sea of bodies in the Mervue box, symptomatic of the in-depth Mervue defending and United’s increasingly desperate attempts to equalise.
From an Isichei cross it looked like Ryan Brennan had levelled the game, but big Martin Connelly was able to trap and clear the ball near the line with Hanley for once beaten.
More heartbreak followed for the Mons as from Ryan Brennan’s free-kick Philip Byrne cracked an overhead kick off the bar. Isichei headed just wide soon after.
As the game entered its final five minutes, another John Reilly cross of quality was met by David Byrne on the edge of the six-yard box, but he again failed to find the target with his header.
MONAGHAN UNITED: Gabriel Sava; Paul Whelan (Michael Isichei 66), Alan Byrne, Philip Byrne, Shane Grimes (Jason Marks 76); John Reilly, Eric Foley, Ryan Brennan, Keith Quinn; David Byrne, Sean Brennan (Jordan Keegan 56).
Subs not used: Rod Collins, Jake Rossiter, Aidan Collins, Niall Flynn.
MERVUE UNITED: Gerard Hanley; Paul Lawless, Martin Connelly, James Casserley, Mark Ludden; Alan Lee (Barry McEntee 81), Pat Hoban (Peter Dravins 81), Kevin Crehan, Mike Collins; John Mountrey, Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: Andrew Daniel, Daniel Tully, Eoin Martin, Ger McGrath.
Referee: Phil Caschera. First assistant: Rob Harvey. Second assistant: Alan Cahill. Fourth official: Paul McLoughlin.

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