'Banty' back with a win as Monaghan see off Derry
2020 Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup, Section A, round 1: Monaghan 1-17 Derry 0-14
HAD someone suggested after just two minutes of this match that it would finish 14-a-side no one would have argued – and so it proved.
Hosts Monaghan made a whirlwind opening, a stormy start, picking up two bookings in only the second minute and two more within the next 10.
Yet the only players going off the pitch before the 68th minute were due to the usual series of substitutions associated with the McKenna Cup, even in its new/old ‘counties only’ format.
It was in the closing minutes of the match that first Monaghan then Derry finally lost a player apiece to the ‘sin bin’, home substitute Dermot Malone and visiting skipper Ciaran McFaul, and the game was well won by then.
Those sin-binnings were the only real impact on this encounter of the new rules, although new players certainly caught the eye, notably Monaghan’s goalscorer, teenager Aaron Mulligan.
The managers were new too, although home boss Seamus McEnaney has been here before. Still, even with Tyrone’s Peter Donnelly and Conor Lavery of Down in the Monaghan backroom, it was obvious this was a ‘Banty’ team.
The hosts got stuck in early on, collecting those yellow cards inside the opening 12 minutes, but they were also attacking positively, which brought them that goal.
Indeed they were 1-3 to no score in front inside nine minutes, that scoring burst culminating in a well-worked and well-taken goal from Latton lad Mulligan.
Colin Walshe intercepted high up the pitch, then little Philip Donnelly’s precise kick-pass found full-forward Gary Mohan, who laid the ball back - and Mulligan didn’t need a second invitation to guide a first-time shot low to the net.
McEnaney was philosophical about those bookings, saying: “Certainly I was pleased with the intensity of the start. Listen, it’s disappointing to get the yellows – but you’d be also disappointed if you weren’t getting a few yellows off and on, wouldn’t you?”
New Derry boss Rory Gallagher had to laugh about that aspect, commenting: “I didn’t expect anything different. Believe it or not we met each other in a challenge game a few weeks ago so we knew what was coming down the track.
“I thought they showed an awful lot of maturity and know-how, Division One know-how, that we didn’t. We’re very naïve and that was reflected in how the game fell away from us in the second half, and also the start.”
Yet in-between those first and last quarters, when Monaghan scored 1-12 of their tally, Derry were the better side, which was some solace for Gallagher:
“I’m delighted with 40, 45 minutes of that game, I thought we were outstanding, we controlled the ball and really looked a threat.
“After a very poor beginning, when we looked very nervy and shaky, I think we played very well for the rest of the first half, and the first 15, 17 minutes of the second half I thought we were really good as well…
“There was tremendous leadership from Shea Downey, young Padraig McGrogan, Ciaran McFaul, Emmet Bradley’s only back, hasn’t been trained, ‘Sucky’ [Ryan Bell] up front as well. He’s exceptional the young full-back. There are a few grizzled veterans we’re looking forward to getting back into the defence as well.”
Although they began badly, Derry soon settled with Downey, son of 1993 hero Seamus, sweeping, which allowed captain McFaul to get on the ball often in a central role and spray kick-passes around.
Despite Downey’s role neither he nor his team were playing particularly defensively. In fact there were regular gulders from the Derry sideline of ‘Get up the pitch…’. The odd ‘Stay back’ too, of course.
Downey seemed to have scored to open Derry’s account, but his ‘point’ was dubiously disallowed. Monaghan’s goal came the next minute, which might have knocked the stuffing out of a young team, but once the Oak Leafers got going they were moving well.
Even the experienced Walshe, perhaps understandably given the height difference, struggled to contain Bell, and he scored three points and won a free converted by Ben McCarron before full-back Conor Boyle was switched onto the Ballinderry man, which curtailed him to some degree.
Monaghan threatened more goals, but good pieces of defending by 2017 Minors Conor McCluskey and Declan Cassidy denied them, and a free from Bell even put them ahead going into the break, 0-8 to 1-4.
Of course, as McEnaney pointed out, it was an experimental Monaghan team too, with only Conor McCarthy, who had opened the scoring, a recognised regular forward. This match was a case of a new-look home attack against a very different Derry defence.
“We’d some newcomers, five players making their debuts today, which we’d be very happy about, they all played very well – it was all about getting game-time into players,” said ‘Banty’.
“We felt that we needed to change it up a bit and we put in some of our more experienced players. From a performance point of few we’d be quite happy.”
Kieran Hughes was one of those better-known names to come on, soon followed by Malone, but Derry still stretched their lead to three points on two occasions, first through Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley, then his surnamesake Emmett.
However, once Jack McCarron, Niall Kearns, and then Karl O’Connell entered the fray, Monaghan had too much quality for a tiring Derry team, who managed only two points in the final quarter.
Somewhat strangely, neither team made use of the ‘attacking mark’, despite their inside forwards taking the requisite clean catches, with both bosses suggesting that players will take time to adjust to that new rule.
Although both Kieran Hughes and Jack McCarron delivered dangerous kick-passes in from distance, Derry’s number three McGrogan general stood up well to the aerial threat – but both those Monaghan men still scored twice each from play.
Besides, the other Derry defenders could not cope with Mulligan, who revelled in the greater space as the game wore to a conclusion, kicking frees and even adding two points inside the 64th minute.
The dismissals came after that, Malone put off after a comical ‘little and large’ tussle with Emmett Bradley, then McFaul punished for hauling down McCarthy.
Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan converted that free and new midfielder Barry McBennett completed the scoring, but despite their six-point defeat Derry can take plenty of positives from their performance too.
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-3, 0-1 ‘45’, 0-2 frees); R O’Toole, C Boyle, C Walshe; P Keenan, R Wylie (capt.), M Bannigan (0-2); B McBennett (0-1), D Hughes; A Mulligan (1-4, 0-2 frees), A Woods, P Donnelly; C McCarthy (0-1), G Mohan, D Ward (0-2).
Substitutes: K Hughes (0-2) for Mohan (h-t); D Malone for Donnelly (42); J McCarron (0-2) for Woods (50); N Kearns for D Hughes (57); K O’Connell for Keenan (60).
Yellow cards (5): Bannigan (2), Ward (2), Donnelly (7), D Hughes (12), Walshe (49).
Sin-binned: Malone (68-end).
Derry: T Mallon; C McCluskey, P McGrogan, R Dougan; C McFaul (capt.) (0-1), S Downey, D Cassidy; P Cassidy, E Bradley (0-5, 0-2 frees); D Tallon, C Bradley (0-1), O McWilliams; B McCarron (0-2, 0-1 free), E Duffy, R Bell (0-4, 0-1 free).
Substitutes: J Doherty (0-1) for McWilliams (h-t); N Toner for Tallon (49); A Doherty for McCarron (55); C McAtamney for Duffy (60).
Sin-binned: McFaul (69-end).
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).