MONAGHAN CHAMPIONS

23 July 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Monaghan 0-11

Donegal 0-10

By JOHN GRAHAM

The magic was back in Monaghan in Clones on Sunday last as they clinched the Ulster Senior Football Championship title for the second time in three years and their 16th time in all when they held out for the narrowest of victories over the reigning champions Donegal.

In a game that was intense throughout and that built to an electrifying finish as Donegal kept chipping away at Monaghan’s lead but ultimately they missed too many chances in the closing stages and the Monaghan defence held its nerve.

For Monaghan the final whistle came as a mighty relief and particularly to the tens of thousands of supporters who swarmed onto the green sward of St Tiarnach’s Park to celebrate this outstanding victory that puts Monaghan back at the top of the pile in the toughest provincial championship in the country.

This was always going to be a close, tense contest and that was how it developed from the very first minutes right to the final whistle where tactics dictated a sometimes frustrating game to watch but one where neither side could afford to give the least bit of latitude to the opposition. Monaghan had only released a panel for the game but on the day they gave starts to Owen Lennon and Kieran Duffy and both played vital roles in a game that was ever changing as play swung from end to end, Duffy in the role of sweeper and Lennon imposing himself in midfield. Tactics dictated that specific man marking jobs were allocated to key players on both sides and that too was part and parcel of a riveting contest that kept the entire 31,997 patrons in their seats to the final whistle.

There was a decided edge also to some of the exchanges and Donegal’s Michael Murphy in particular was lucky to escape censure, at least a booking for two off the ball body checks, first of all on Conor McManus and secondly on Darren Hughes. McManus too was the subject of some very close attention by Donegal full back Neil McGee that started even before the ball was thrown in, along with Paddy McGrath or at times Eamon McGee, but although he got little protection from the Meath whistler and was very unfairly yellow carded along with McGee, he stuck manfully to the task and finished joint top scorer with six points, three from frees and some of his striking was simply superb and he left his marker a dejected man at the end.

Donegal’s Patrick McBrearty also finished with six points, with four of his from frees but he will be disappointed at a couple of chances that he squandered particularly when the game was in the balance late in the second-half.

Donegal in fact got off to the better start and had Monaghan backpedalling in the early stages and it wasn’t until the 26th minute of the match that Monaghan took the lead for the first time in a game where up until then turn overs were the order of the day.

The Monaghan defence particularly Dessie Mone on Colm McFadden, Ryan ….

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