In-form Scotstown can inflict more heartache on Ballybay in Monaghan decider
Greenfield Foods Monaghan SFC final: Ballybay v Scotstown (tomorrow, 3pm, St Tiernach’s Park)
AFTER Clontibret derailed their bid for five in-a-row last year, Scotstown will be determined to reclaim the Mick Duffy Cup when they take on familiar foes Ballybay in Clones tomorrow.
And if the O’Neill’s have proved something of a bogey side for Scotstown - having bookended their winning run with championship final defeats in 2014 and 2019 - then Ballybay must be truly sick of the sight of An Bhoth by this stage.
For the Pearse Brothers, it feels like a long time since 2012 when they finally ended a 25-year wait to top the pile in the Farney County. In the time between Scotstown have made it to the final every year, winning five and losing out in those two deciders to Clontibret.
In each of the last four years, Ballybay’s interest has been ended by Scotstown, with two semi-final replay defeats among them. Despite a late surge in the 2018 final, the Pearse Brothers came up short again, so they will not lack for motivation when they cross the white line tomorrow.
The return of a crowd of sorts – 200 people are allowed into St Tiernach’s Park following an Irish government announcement earlier this week – will change the dynamic somewhat from the semi-finals, with Monaghan GAA TV streaming the game for those unable to get their hands on a ticket.
Ballybay are certainly the more battle-hardened coming into tomorrow’s final, after navigating their way out of a group that also contained defending champions Clontribret, Ulster intermediate kingpins Magheracloone and Oisin McConville’s dangerous Inniskeen.
After the opening-day draw with Clontibret, Ballybay cantered over the line – and the manner in which they rescued a share of the spoils that day has been indicative of the resolve Colin Malone’s men have shown throughout.
Having earned a reputation for somehow contriving to lose games they should have win in years previous, Clontibret led by two with five minutes to go, only for county man Dessie Ward to step up and help Ballybay secure a draw at the death.
And the closeness of the final group clash with Inniskeen proved a forerunner to the hell for leather semi-final that would follow in Clones on September 6, Ballybay again showing their steel when it mattered after Inniskeen battled back having trailed by seven at half-time.
After being brought into extra-time, a fourth goal of the game - this one from Shane McGuinness after earlier majors from Patrick O’Neill (2) and Christopher McGuinness – helped them edge across the line.
Scotstown, in contrast, have looked a cut above throughout and are justifiably favourites going into tomorrow’s game. They cruised through Group Two to secure their spot in the semi-final, easing beyond Truagh, Latton and Carrickmacross before a 1-13 to 0-13 victory over ’Blayney in their final game.
Having had 14 points to spare in their group clash, anything other than a Scotstown win was highly unlikely when they were pitted against Carrickmacross again in the last four – and so it transpired.
After a close first half, which Scotstown led 0-7 to 1-3 at half-time, An Bhoth cut loose, the brilliant Conor McCarthy proving almost unstoppable on the 40 as they surged into an eight point lead by the water break.
With fresh legs, experience of winning and the desire to win back what was ripped from their grasp last year, Colin McAree’s men look well placed to inflict further heartache on Ballybay.
Paths to the final
Ballybay 1-9 Clontibret 1-9
Ballybay 1-12 Magheracloone 1-9
Ballybay 4-20 Donaghmoyne 0-8
Ballybay 2-9 Inniskeen 0-14
Ballybay 4-19 Inniskeen 1-25
Scotstown 0-17 Truagh 1-12
Scotstown 0-12 Latton 0-8
Scotstown 2-15 Carrickmacross 0-7
Scotstown 1-13 Castleblayney 0-13
Scotstown 0-17 Carrickmacross 1-6