Donegal come on strong to dent Monaghan momentum in Ballyshannon
Allianz National Football League Division One: Donegal 2-12 Monaghan 0-8
THE Farney challenge was blown away with the stiff Atlantic breeze that battered Ballyshannon yesterday as Donegal ended Monaghan’s momentum with an emphatic display in desperate conditions.
Man of the match Michael Langan defied the swirling wind and driving hail as Donegal dominated, his five points from play helping send the Tir Chonaill men into a crunch clash with Tyrone in high spirits.
A goal late in the first half from the impressive Caolan Ward, lashing beyond Rory Beggan’s outstretched arm, was a huge turning point after a nip and tuck opening half hour, that strike helping them to a 1-5 to 0-2 lead at the break.
By the time their second goal came courtesy of Hugh McFadden, however, the game was slipping well beyond Monaghan’s reach.
Donegal – who had Ryder Cup-winning captain Paul McGinley watching on - landed four of the first five points against the breeze to cement their position in the second half. When Monaghan lost captain Ryan Wylie to a red card for a yellow that followed the black card he had picked up in the first 35, a difficult task became nearly impossible.
With 15 minutes left, McFadden was left to gallop towards an open goal after a huge Shaun Patton kick-out caught the Monaghan press flat-footed. Beggan dragged down Patrick McBrearty as he tried to sidestep the Scotstown stopper 20 metres from goal, leaving McFadden to feasting on the scraps.
To add injury to insult, referee David Coldrick had no option but to show Beggan a black card for his indiscretion. Trailing by nine and down to 13 men, it was game over for Monaghan as Donegal played out the final 15 minutes at challenge game pace to banish the memories of last weekend’s disappointing defeat to Dublin.
“It was important for us to get the two points,” said boss Declan Bonner.
“We spoke about it before the match - whatever about the performance, it was all about getting the two points and getting over the line.
“It was tough going on a heavy pitch. We played well and we controlled the game. We dominated the possession so we’re quite happy with the performance and especially the win.”
There can’t have been too many occasions since his arrival on the scene over a decade ago that Michael Murphy has walked from the field at the end with nothing to his name. But, with Langan and McBrearty – making his first start of 2020 – in inspired form, they didn’t need their talisman to take this game by the scruff.
In truth, this was never going to be a day for forwards, and that proved more to Monaghan’s cost than Donegal.
“You could see Neil [McGee] was smiling coming in here this morning,” laughed McFadden.
And where Seamus McEnaney sent Kieran Hughes out to try and limit Murphy’s impact, to good effect in the main, Conor McCarthy and Conor McManus were feeding off scraps on a pitch where the bounce was different every time it came their way.
McGee, as McFadden noted, relished the physical battle from the off, getting in the face of Ryan McAnespie during some niggly early exchanges before making three impressive interceptions as Monaghan tried to unleash McManus.
McCarthy, so electrifying against Mayo last week, had Ryan McHugh for company. He saw very little of the ball.
Both struggled to adapt to the conditions in the first half until Langan stood up and took the game by the scruff in the moments after Wylie’s sin-binning on the quarter hour.
He ruled the skies from the 20 minute mark, bounding forward to swing over two vital points as the Tir Chonaill moved into the lead. Monaghan, on the other hand, didn’t get a score on the board until Conor Boyle fisted over eight minutes before the break.
Ward, brilliant on the day, struck a hammer blow to their hopes when he ghosted into the square to receive a fisted pass from Eoghan Ban Gallagher before driving into the corner.
McBrearty showed a bit of ring rust as he finished the first half by kicking three wides in-a-row but, with the breeze at his back, the Kilcar man came flying out of the blocks to extend the Donegal lead to seven within a minute of the restart.
Ward and Langan registered either side of a McCarthy point for Monaghan before the Farneymen lost Wylie for the rest of the game. The Ballybay man could have no complaints about the first half black card for dragging down Ciaran Thompson, and must have known his fate was sealed when he stopped Langan in his tracks as Donegal countered.
McEnaney moved Drew Wylie onto Murphy to allow Kieran Hughes to go to full-forward as Monaghan tried to drag themselves back into the game, but any lingering hopes of a comeback were killed off in the 55th minute when McFadden goaled and Beggan saw black.
In cruise control, Donegal kept the Farneymen at arm’s length for the rest of the game, sauntering across the line and into that huge Ballybofey showdown with the Red Hands on March 14.
For Monaghan, they’ll have to pick themselves up in time for the visit of Kerry in Inniskeen in two weeks’ time.
“The goal was a sucker-punch for us before half time, it was a ball we probably should’ve cleared,” said Farney boss McEnaney.
“We didn’t have enough energy in the first half, we gave away ball in their half of the field which was disappointing.
“We spent a lot of the game with 14 men and then 13 men and that’s difficult. You can’t survive at this level with that.
“Donegal haven’t been beaten here in 15 years and there’s a reason for that. It’s very difficult to come here and play the standard of football you’d like to play.”
Donegal: S Patton; N McGee, E Gallagher, C Ward (1-0); H McFadden (1-0); R McHugh, D O Baoill, O McFadden-Ferry; M Langan (0-5), C McMonagle; P Brennan, C Thompson (0-1), M Murphy; P McBrearty (0-3, 0-1 free), P Mogan (0-1). Subs: N O’Donnell (0-2) for P Brennan (33), E McHugh for McFadden-Ferry (38), A McClean for McGonagle (54), J McKelvey for Mogan (68), E Doherty for McBrearty (69)
Monaghan: R Beggan; D Wylie, C Boyle (0-1), K Duffy; K O’Connell, R Wylie, K Hughes (0-1); D Ward, N Kearns, D Hughes; M Bannigan, R McAnespie, D Malone; C McCarthy (0-1), C McManus (0-2, frees). Subs: J McCarron (0-3, 0-1 free) for Bannigan (HT), C McGuinness for D Hughes (50), S Carey for Malone (50), D Kirk for McAnespie (56), C Walshe for Beggan (66)
Black cards: R Wylie (15-25), R Beggan (56-66)
Yellow cards: K Hughes (16), R Wylie (47)
Red card: R Wylie (47)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)