Football

Holders Down crash out as savvy Derry U20s squeeze past Monaghan

A late Aaron Carey goal gave Monaghan hope, but Fionn McEldowney epitomised a street smart Derry.

Jake McConnon of Monaghan in action against Ruairi Forbes of Derry in the Ulster U20 Championship game at St Marys Park, Castleblaney Co Monaghan.  Picture by Oliver McVeigh
Jake McConnon of Monaghan in action against Ruairi Forbes of Derry in the Ulster U20 Championship game at St Marys Park, Castleblaney Co Monaghan. Picture by Oliver McVeigh
Eirgrid Ulster Under-20 Football Championship Round 4
Monaghan 2-6 1-11 Derry

Derry edged out Monaghan in the Ulster U20 Championship tonight to secure a second win from three games and leave The Farney looking unlikely to top the group.

Down’s win over Antrim leaves them on just three points with no games to play, and they are guaranteed to finish fourth behind Tyrone, Derry and Monaghan in the table.

For Derry, Oisín Doherty struck 0-5, while Fionn McEldowney was exceptional to leave the Oak Leafers looking like favourites to make an automatic semi-final. They face table proppers Antrim in the final round of fixtures.

A cagey opening quarter saw the sides trade scores, with Kian Duffy swinging over Monaghan’s opener from a free in the absence of Stephen Mooney. A tidy clipped effort from the ciotóg of Oisín Doherty levelled matters, before Derry took the initiative.

Derry captain Fionn McEldowney lifts the Fr Murray Cup after their Ulster MFC final win over Monaghan last month, watched by Gerard O’Kane (left), who lifted the same silverware before going on to claim the Tom Markham Cup for Derry as All-Ireland champions in 2002       Picture: Philip Walsh
Derry captain Fionn McEldowney lifts the Fr Murray Cup after their Ulster MFC final win over Monaghan last month, watched by Gerard O’Kane (left), who lifted the same silverware before going on to claim the Tom Markham Cup for Derry as All-Ireland champio Derry captain Fionn McEldowney lifts the Fr Murray Cup after their Ulster MFC final win over Monaghan last month, watched by Gerard O’Kane (left), who lifted the same silverware before going on to claim the Tom Markham Cup for Derry as All-Ireland champions in 2002 Picture: Philip Walsh

A loose kick pass from Fionán Carolan saw Monaghan cough up possession, and although they got men behind the ball, a Fionn McEldowney run broke their resistance. Last year’s U17 star teed up Johnny McGuckian, and he struck low into left hand corner to give Derry the initiative on 14 minutes.

The lead was short lived, as Bobby McCaul rose high, beat his man and finished at Callum Armstrong’s near post. McCaul was Monaghan’s main focal point, with Derry opting to drop Tommy Rogers as a sweeper at times to limit the damage.

And they edged matters from there until the break, with Niall O’Donnell replying almost instantly from 40 yards, before a few dead balls from Doherty left the away side 1-05 1-02 up at the break.

Monaghan started the latter period with intent, as sub Cian Conlon converted two frees, sandwiching a tidy Conleth McGrogan score.

Midfielder Ruairi Forbes re-established the three point cushion after ghosting in behind, with McEldowney denied a goal after doing likewise, his effort blocked out for a ‘45.

Down v Derry U20s
Three down, one to go: Derry's Cahir Spiers is tracked by Down trio Nathan Rogers, Ronan Kelly and Tom McCarroll at Pairc Esler. Picture: Philip Walsh

The game petered out a bit in an 11 minute scoreless spell, not that that was bothering Hugh McGrath’s charges. He would have been more pleased still when the Seán Young ended the blunt exchanges with a point.

At the other end, the ever-dangerous McCaul had an effort miraculously cleared off the line by corner-back Rory Small. He did make up for that somewhat with a fisted point, with Kian Duffy’s third free making it 1-06 1-09.

A wayward Derry strike was kept in play and culminated in a point from sub Ronan Walls, before the ground opened up in front of Clontibret’s Aaron Carey, and he took full advantage in slotting in the hosts second goal.

The Oak Leafers’ game management was phenomenal from there on in, with Monaghan’s sole chance on the break scuppered by James Murray.

Tracking back:
Wednesday 3rd April 2024 Jake McConnon of Monaghan in action against Johnny McGuckin of Derry in the Ulster U20 Championship game at St Marys Park, Castleblaney Co Monaghan. Pictures Oliver McVeigh (Oliver McVeigh)

And the win was secured with Doherty’s final score and what turned out to be the final score of the game.

Scorers

Monaghan: Bobby McCaul 1-1, Aaron Carey 1-0, Kian Duffy 0-3 (2f), Cian Conlon 0-2 (2f)

Derry: Oisín Doherty 0-5 (3f), Johnny McGuckian 1-0, Niall O’Donnell, Eoin Higgins, Sean Young, Ronan Walls, Ruairi Forbes, Conleth McGrogan 0-1 each

Teams

Monaghan: Jamie Mooney; Gary Devlin, Jake McConnon, Fionán Carolan; Packie Doogan Burke, Charlie McQuillan, Sean Callan; Joey McMahon, Thomas Hughes (C); Darragh Mee, Aaron Carey, Oisin McGorman; Niall Rice, Bobby McCaul, Kian Duffy.

Subs used- Caolán Foy, Cian Conlon, Nicky Sherlock, Dara McKenna, Luke McManus

Derry: Callum Armstrong; Fionn McEldowney (C), Conall Heron, Rory Small; Conleth McGrogan, James Murray, Danny McDermott; Ruairí Forbes, Tommy Rogers; Cahir Spiers, Niall O’Donnell, Johnny McGuckian; Eoin Higgins, Patrick McGuirk, Oisin Doherty

Subs used- Sean Young, Ronan Walls, Dara McPeake

Referee: Michael Moore (An Dún)