Monaghan win unforgettable clash with champions Tyrone
Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Tyrone 1-16 Monaghan 1-18
JUST when the Ulster Championship was starting to sag, heavyweights Tyrone and Monaghan produced an absolute thriller in Healy Park yesterday afternoon.
The quality of this game was so high it’s hard to imagine it being bettered for the rest of the summer.
The second half made adrenaline junkies out of the 15,029 supporters who had the privilege to watch this game - and made fools out of GAA broadcasters who turned their noses up at the outstanding Championship fixture in the country.
Monaghan’s brilliant victory was worthy of an Ulster title in itself rather than a mere provincial semi-final berth – against Fermanagh on June 3 – while toppled champions Tyrone make their way into the All-Ireland Qualifiers, with their chances of a Super 8 berth hardly diminished by the events of yesterday.
Make no mistake: Monaghan were fully deserving of this memorable win.
They played with their hearts and their heads to progress in the provincial series. And they had marquee quality at either end of the field.
Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan was absolutely flawless from start to finish – converting four high-pressured placed balls and dictating the game like a savvy quarterback.
At the other end of the field roamed the peerless Conor McManus.
Yesterday, he broke Tyrone hearts with another unbelievable display of finishing.
As Tyrone full-back Ronan McNamee found out to his cost, you think you’ve got him under control – and then he explodes into life.
The Clontibret man was on the fringes of the game in the opening exchanges.
He converted two first-half frees and was involved in the flowing move that led to Vinny Corey’s goal in first-half injury-time. But it wasn’t until the heat was turned up in the second half that McManus really flourished.
With the game finely balanced at 1-13 to 0-16 and only three minutes of normal time remaining, up stepped McManus to put the visitors ahead by one from a placed ball beside the Tyrone sideline.
Seconds later, substitute Colin Walshe slung over another for Monaghan with his weaker left foot before McManus hit back-to-back points (one free), the last of which was from a scandalous distance and angle.
Four points up and deep into stoppage-time, the champions were finally beaten.
There was still time for McManus to nab his sixth point of the day and Tyrone substitute Michael McKernan to raise a green flag after redirecting Frank Burns’s ’45. But it was a mere consolation.
Darren Hughes was also pivotal in the winning of yesterday’s clash, ruling midfield while Dessie Mone and Vinny Corey may have high mileage on their respective clocks but they remain fantastic competitors at this level.
After Mattie Donnelly skinned Corey to split Monaghan’s posts towards the end of the first half, seconds later the Clontibret warhorse was wheeling away in delight after scoring the game-changing goal.
Monaghan’s three-pointer proved that Tyrone’s heavily fortified back-line could be breached.
McManus, Hughes and Corey moved the ball at a blinding speed through the hands before Corey poked the ball home from close range to put Monaghan 1-6 to 0-8 ahead.
And before David Coldrick blew his whistle to signal the end of the first half, Drew Wylie stole forward from full-back to grab another hair-raising score to put the visitors two up at the break.
And yet, the Red Hands started yesterday’s quarter-final much the brighter of the two sides, racing into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead.
Niall Sludden and Padraig Hampsey hit eye-catching scores during Tyrone’s period of dominance but Monaghan never panicked.
They put great emphasis on keeping possession. At times, their play looked too lateral – until Karl O’Connell would break Tyrone’s defensive lines. Their goal couldn’t have come at a better time.
They had something to protect in the second half and managed to register the first two scores after the restart through a Jack McCarron free and a lovely effort from the impressive Ryan McAnespie.
Tyrone were always in this quarter-final – even though Mickey Harte was faced with replenishing his team earlier than anticipated.
Forward Mark Bradley was forced out of the game after 20 minutes, Collie Cavanagh looked off the pace after a long spell out with injury and never appeared for the second half.
Likewise, Tiernan McCann was showing signs of ring rust and was replaced after 53 minutes. The baton was passed to Connor McAliskey and the Clonoe attacker didn't flinch.
He was the only real danger to Monaghan's posts in the second half, hitting back-to-back scores in the 43rd and 45th minutes to reduce the deficit to 1-10 to 1-11.
And just when it seemed Tyrone would claw back Monaghan's tenuous lead, the visitors would chisel out another score.
Beggan thumped over a '45 to take the wind out of Tyrone's sails before Harte and Sludden replied for the home side.
Then it was Dessie Mone's turn to quell the Red Hands. His neat jink and shot from an impossible angle in the 56th minute was one of many unforgettable moments in a classic encounter that put Monaghan three ahead.
Mattie Donnelly kept asking questions of Monaghan, Niall Sludden always looked dangerous when he got the ball in his hands.
But Tyrone needed more leadership from other areas of the field to shift momentum.
Peter Harte was well policed by Fintan Kelly and Kieran Duffy kept Lee Brennan scoreless from play.
It’s easy to be wise after the event but Monaghan’s match-ups worked a treat.
In the dying moments, Harte received a straight red card for felling Ryan Wylie.
To their eternal credit, Monaghan never buckled. They held possession with incredible poise and spirited the ball to the right men.
And when they needed a bit of class, McManus obliged like only he can.
It will be no consolation to Tyrone this morning, but it was a glorious afternoon for Ulster football. Truly glorious.
Tyrone: N Morgan; P Hampsey (0-1), R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, F Burns, P Harte (0-1); C Cavanagh, M Donnelly (0-1); C McShane (0-1), N Sludden (0-2), C Meyler; L Brennan (0-3 frees), C McAliskey (0-6, 0-3 frees), M Bradley Subs: R O’Neill for M Bradley (20), D McClure for C Cavanagh (h/t), M McKernan (1-1) for C McCarron (40), HP McGeary for T McCann (53), K McGeary for L Brennan (56), C McCann for R O’Neill (62)
Yellow cards: N Morgan (35), D McClure (46), C McAliskey (47), C McCann (67)
Red cards: P Harte (73)
Black cards: None
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘45); D Mone (0-1), D Wylie (0-1), R Wylie; K Duffy, V Corey (1-0), K O’Connell; N Kearns, D Hughes; F Kelly (0-1), J McCarron (0-2, 0-1 free), D Ward; R McAnespie (0-1), K Hughes, C McManus (0-6, 0-4 frees) Subs: C McCarthy (0-1 free) for D Ward (41), O Duffy for J McCarron (62), C Walshe (0-1) for D Mone (63)
Yellow cards: D Ward (24), K O’Connell (27), R Beggan (31), C McCarthy (72)
Black cards: None
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)
Rory Beggan: Absolutely accurate from placed balls, even from long distance, and also fl oated some lovely precise kick-outs. Clever in dealing with high balls and inspired confidence. 8.5
Dessie Mone: Called up to replace captain Colin Walshe and led by example. Kept fairly close tabs on Niall Sludden but also attacked regularly himself, scoring a stunning point. 7.5
Drew Wylie: Marking Connor McAliskey but also got forward, scoring a late fi rst half point. Troubled for a time by his man’s accuracy and got booked but generally very composed. 7
Ryan Wylie: Started on Mark Bradley, then his replacement Ronan O’Neill, dominating him to the extent that he was subbed. Missed one chance but won an important Tyrone kick-out late on in a typically all-action display. 7.5 Kieran Duffy: Stuck fairly tightly to Lee Brennan, including getting in a block, holding his man scoreless. 6.5
Vinny Corey: Detailed to man-mark Mattie Donnelly and did that to an effective extent, but went much further by also popping up with Monaghan’s goal. Showed all his experience and versatility at both ends of the pitch. 8
Karl O’Connell: Injected searing pace into attacks, breaking defensive lines, and came close to grabbing a goal in second half. 7.5
Niall Kearns: The young debutant enjoyed a solid introduction, covering plenty of ground, and was disciplined in his defensive duties. 7
Darren Hughes: Named at midfi eld but played further forward, often appearing dangerously in attacks, including assisting the goal. Took a great catch against Cavanagh. 8
Fintan Kelly: Scored the opening point and showed well in attack while also keeping Peter Harte quiet for most of the game. 7
Jack McCarron: Up at full-forward initially, squeezed over a smart point and his clever movement posed problems for his namesake Cathal, who was taken off. 7
Dessie Ward: A tricky runner but prone to losing possession. Booked for a high challenge on Mattie Donnelly. Was replaced by McCarthy. 6
Ryan McAnespie: Started slowly but began snapping up breaking ball on a regular basis, tenacious in the tackle. Notched a nice point and showed great energy. 7
Kieran Hughes: Operated mostly around midfi eld before the break. Pushed forward late on. Took some fi ne fetches and quite a bit of punishment in winning ball against Hampsey. 7
Conor McCarthy: Made an impression almost immediately, scoring a point on the run, and his pace led to further scoring opportunities for his side, forcing a 45 and winning a free. 7
Owen Duffy: Shot a wide, but also made an important interception in injury time. 6 Colin Walshe: Came on in the 64th minute and still made a big impact, winning a free and kicking a classy point. 7.5
Niall Morgan: Forced to go long with a lot of his kick-outs, with mixed results. Should have kept them away from Darren Hughes. Picked up a yellow card after Monaghan’s goal and missed an important free, but denied Karl O'Connell with a fine save. 6
Padraig Hampsey: The U21 All-Ireland winner started brightly, hitting an early point and defended well. But had more difficulty with Kieran Hughes in the second half. 6
Ronan McNamee: It was all going to plan in the first half, but Conor McManus can time a run like no other footballer in the country. Not a lot he could do to stop his man in the closing stages as Tyrone pushed forward and left spaces. 6
Cathal McCarron: Jack McCarron got on too much ball for the Tyrone defender’s liking and got a brilliant score in the 19th minute. He made way for fresh legs in the 40th minute. 5
Tiernan McCann: No eye-catching raids from the Killyclogher wing-back. Missed a lot of football this season and it showed. Replaced in the 53rd minute. 5
Frank Burns: Held the centre and broke forward with mixed results. The Pomeroy man made a fantastic block on Karl O’Connell when he was second favourite. 6.5
Peter Harte: A lot rested on the Errigal Ciaran man and Monaghan knew it. Fintan Kelly denied him space throughout and Harte lost the head in the dying seconds for felling Ryan Wylie. A day to forget. 5
Colm Cavanagh: The Moy man’s rustiness showed. He never got to the pace of the game and found Darren Hughes a handful in the aerial stakes. Replaced at the break. 5
Mattie Donnelly: Never went missing when Tyrone were chasing the game. Committed Monaghan defenders at every opportunity. Grabbed an excellent first-half point but Vinny Corey escaped his attentions to goal moments later. 7
Cathal McShane: Opened Tyrone’s account with an early score, but he was put on the back foot by Karl O’Connell’s smart runs forward. 5
Niall Sludden: Beautiful point in the fifth minute, but as the game progressed he found Dessie Mone to be a real pest. He still looked one of the Tyrone players who could break Monaghan’s resistance. He nabbed another point and won several frees in the scoring zone. 6.5
Conor Meyler: Looked dangerous the few times he ran at the Monaghan defence but probably didn’t get on enough ball to affect the game. 6
Lee Brennan: A tough Ulster Championship baptism for the U21 All-Ireland winner. Kieran Duffy used all his experience to keep his man scoreless. Struck three confident frees. Replaced in the closing stages. 5.5
Connor McAliskey: Tyrone’s best player. Never shirked his responsibilities. He showed Drew Wylie a clean pair of heels in the first half and his back-to-back points in the second half put Tyrone back in the frame. Couldn’t have done much more. 8.
Mark Bradley: Tyrone’s best laid plans of pairing Bradley with Brennan inside didn’t materialise after the Killyclogher attacker suffered an ankle injury following an innocuous challenge with Dessie Mone. 5
Ronan O’Neill: Replaced Mark Bradley in the 20th minute and although his movement was good, he never got his hands on the ball and was substituted in the 62nd minute. 5
Michael McKernan: Had trouble containing Monaghan substitute Conor McCarthy but got forward to bag a late 1-1. 6
Declan McClure: Entered the fray at the restart. Hit some nice kick passes into the full-forward line, but Monaghan ruled the centre of the field. 6
Hugh Pat McGeary: Shadowed Owen Duffy and had one effort that sailed wide. 5.5
Conall McCann: Picked up a yellow card for a foul that was converted brilliantly by Conor McManus. 5
Kieran McGeary: Didn’t see much of the ball in the final seven minutes. 5
CONOR MCMANUS (Monaghan) Linked play confidently, including for the goal, having often dropped deeper. Hampered by an injury for a while in the second half but exhibited all his class, kicking four of his side’s last five scores to take his tally to 0-6. His 67th minute free was a pressure score, putting his side back in front and his first point from play was amazing, from out on the right wing, off his right foot. 8.5
TYRONE struggled when Monaghan pushed up on their kick-outs. And with Collie Cavanagh short of match practice, and not appearing for the second half, the Red Hands were always going to struggle in the middle of the field.
Their cause wasn’t helped by the injury to Mark Bradley and the withdrawals of Tiernan McCann and Cavanagh but Tyrone were still reluctant to kick the ball into their inside line. Mattie Donnelly and Connor McAliskey showed leadership in Cavanagh’s absence but they needed more from other sources to turn this game in their favour in the second half.
MONAGHAN’s match-ups were excellent. Dessie Mone kept Niall Sludden to just two points. Fintan Kelly did an excellent job on Peter Harte, Kieran Duffy kept Lee Brennan scoreless from play and Karl O’Connell managed to put Cathal McShane on the back foot.
They pushed up on Tyrone’s kick-outs and dominated midfield. Their composure in possession was the glowing feature of their play, epitomised by Rory Beggan, and they weren’t afraid to go deep into Tyrone territory, speeding up their attack, to get the all-important goal with some slick hand passing.