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Monaghan edge past dogged Antrim to set up Ulster U21 Championship quarter-final with Derry

Monaghan's Dermot Gleeson passes the ball while under pressure from Antrim's Patrick McCormick during Wednesday night's EirGrid Ulster U21 Football Championship preliminary round tie at the QUB Arena, Belfast
Picture by Matt Bohill
From Neil Loughran at the QUB Arena

A GOAL in either half proved crucial for reigning Ulster U21 champions Monaghan as they eventually edged out a dogged Antrim side at The Dub Arena last night.

Majors from Dermot Gleeson (15) and David Garland (45) did the damage for the Farneymen as they were pushed hard throughout.

However, boss Ciaran McBride was also indebted to a fingertip save from goalkeeper Shane Garland towards the end of the first half to deny Seamus McGarry a goal that would have sent the Saffrons in three up at the break.

Level at half-time, this game was end to end until the final 15 minutes when The Irish News Cup holders eventually pulled away to book a quarter-final date with Fergal McCusker’s Derry next Wednesday night.

It was Antrim who took the lead after a slow start from both counties, Odhran Eastwood firing over a free six minutes in before David Garland spun on a sixpence and shot between the uprights.

Micheal Bannigan – called into Malachy O’Rourke’s senior panel earlier in the year – put the Farneymen ahead temporarily before Seamus McGarry kicked the first of three stunning first half scores, selling Stephen Finnegan a dummy before curling over the black spot.

The Aldergrove man was on the mark again three minutes later, finishing off a super move that involved Ruairi Scott and the marauding Pat Branagan from corner-back.

Leading 0-3 to 0-2 and moving the ball well, Antrim boss Sean McGoldrick must have been a happy man, but the Saffrons were made to pay the price for a bit of defensive sloppiness after 15 minutes.

The ball rebounded off two Antrim backs before finding its way into the hands of the impressive Dermot Gleeson and he made no mistake, firing low beyond Andrew Hasson to put McBride’s men back in front.

In a wonderfully open game, lit up by some superb scores, Antrim came flying back, hitting four of the next five points to lead by one, a cool finish from the rampaging Peter Healy the pick.

As they would do in the second half, Monaghan finished strongly before the break, with Gleeson and sub Fergal Hanratty getting on the scoreboard before Garland’s superb save kept out McGarry to leave it 1-6 to 0-9 as the teams went in.

The teams continued to go

tit-for-tat in the second half too, Monaghan’s Micheal Bannigan and Antrim’s Odhran Eastwood both unerring from frees.

The Saffrons took the lead in the 44th minute, 0-13 to 1-9, after a lovely score from Ruairi Scott following neat build-up by Eastwood and captain Conor Small, but that was the last time they would get their noses in front.

David Garland’s goal, Monaghan’s second of the night, was a killer blow a minute later as he slotted clinically under Hasson following clever play from Bannigan to draw the Antrim defence.

Another score from the seemingly untouchable McGarry left a point in it as the clock headed towards the final 10 minutes.

However, Monaghan proved to have the legs down the back straight, Barry Kerr popping up with two crucial scores before Stephen Finnegan and David McAllister sealed the deal late on to set up a last eight date with the Oak Leafers.

Antrim: A Hasson; P Branagan, T McGoran, P McCormick (0-1); R Hannigan, P Healy (0-1), E Walsh; D Nugent, R Delargy; S McGarry (0-8, 0-1 free), C Small, J McAuley; O Eastwood (0-4, frees), R McCann, R Scott (0-2).

Subs: C Lyttle for R Hannigan (49), E Fyfe for J McAuley (54), P Treanor for R Scott (56)

Monaghan: S Garland; C Lennon, M Murnaghan, J Daly; N Kearns, J Mealiff, S Finnegan (0-1); S Woods, D McAllister (0-1); B Kerr (0-2), F Maguire, S McCabe; D Gleeson (1-1), M Bannigan (0-4, 0-1 free), D Garland (1-3).

Subs: F Hanratty (0-1) for J Daly (20), M Tierney (0-1) for S McCabe (33), R McDonald for F Maguire (47), J Walshe for S Woods (60)

Black card: J Mealiff, replaced by P Finnan (30)

Yellow card: C Lennon (60), D Garland (61)

Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan)

Thursday's other results:

EirGrid Leinster U21 FC quarter-final: Louth 1-8 Laois 2-13

EirGrid Munster U21 FC quarter-finals: Kerry 1-17 Clare 2-8; Limerick 0-16 Tipperary 0-14 (after extra-time)

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