10 June 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Monaghan 2-22
Down 0-09

Monaghan got the defence of their Ulster senior football championship title off to a winning start when they simply blitzed Down in the second-half of what turned out to be a totally one-sided affair as the champions cruised to a comprehensive, if not totally facile victory before some 12,782 spectators in Clones on Sunday last.

Played in sweltering conditions this was a game that was only a contest in the first half as Down came with a defensive strategy that proved problematic to break down and they also asked a number of questions with a counter attacking strategy that caused the home side a few anxious moments. Monaghan had to be patient during that opening period but there were some slightly worrying aspects of their play as Down were allowed to transfer the ball quickly, mostly through the hands, from defence into attack and with a little bit better luck in front of the posts they might not have trailed by the tree points that separated the sides at the break as Down hit a total of eight wides in the opening half, three from frees.
Monaghan who re-jigged their forces from the team that was announced for the game made two changes in personnel before the start with Kieran Duffy coming in in place of Neil McAdam and operating at corner back while Conor McCarthy came into the attack in place of Owen Duffy for his senior championship debut. It was a winning debut for the Scotstown man who earlier this year also won an Ulster under 21 championship medal and he contributed handsomely with two excellent points, one from a free, as well as being involved in a series of lighting moves in the second-half.
The sides were level 5 times during that first half with Down taking the lead on three occasions before Monaghan began to show signs of the game they would produce in the second-half in the run-in to the break when they scored three excellent points without reply to leave them three in front at half-time.

Down drew first blood in the second-half to reduce the margin to 2 after two minutes but they were not to score again until the 28th minute of the second-half by which stage Monaghan had opened a 13 points lead and were able to defend and raid almost at will as they simply tore Down to shreds, sending over points from a range of distances and angles and blasting in two excellently constructed and brilliantly finished goals that sucked the lifeblood out of the Mourne men completely.

In the end Monaghan just simply had too much firepower in their armoury and a testament to the one-way nature of the contest and Down’s dearth of scores in particular was that Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan with three points scored more than any Down player. In the second-half Monaghan simply proved superior in every aspect of their play although there were a few moments of carelessness that manager Malachy O’Rourke will seek to tidy up as against better opposition Monaghan could pay a higher price. As a contest this game was over quite some time before the finish as Monaghan safely navigated their way into the semi-final for the fourth year in a row and now await the outcome of this Sunday’s quarter-final between Donegal and Fermanagh.

Monaghan opened the scoring with a point by Kieran Hughes in the opening minute following good work by Colin Walshe coming out of defence. A minute later Down were level when Barry O’Hagan worked his way in along the end line before fisting over and two minutes later still Down took the lead for the first time through Conor Maginn when he lofted over from out on the left wing.

Down now had two chances to extend their lead, one from a free, but were wide from both while a long-range free at the other end for Monaghan by Rory Beggan dropped short and was cleared with Down wide at the end of the resultant counter attack. Kieran Hughes brought Monaghan level in the 11th minute, Vinny…

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