Scotstown recover from slow start to regain Monaghan Senior Championship crown
Greenfield Foods Monaghan Senior Football Championship final: Scotstown 1-14 Ballybay 0-7
IT took them 15 minutes to raise a gallop, but by the end of yesterday’s Monaghan final Scotstown had regained their crown with an emphatic win over Ballybay.
And as the evening shadows lengthened across St Tiernach’s Park, the An Bhoth players and their supporters, the ones lucky enough to get tickets, celebrated a win – the club’s sixth in eight seasons – which had been built on experience, grit and, near the end, a little footballing flair.
Ballybay led 0-4 to 0-1 after the first quarter but trailed by a couple at the break and although they hung in gamely when Scotstown threatened to seize control in the second half, they were overrun in the closing stages.
“We’re thrilled,” said manager Colin McAree afterwards.
“Anytime you go into a county final you want to win it but the manner of the victory was a very polished performance and that has been coming all year. We’ve gone the whole year without defeat in championship football and there are teams in other counties that have won county titles having lost along the way.
“Credit to the lads, they really put in a massive effort all year, particularly with the whole Covid-19 thing but when they came back at the start of July we said: ‘Let’s give this a rattle’ and we’re home and hosed now and very happy.”
Darren Hughes was missing last year when Clontibret denied Scotstown a five in-a-row. He was back in midfield yesterday and Ballybay struggled to match the physicality and energy of the Monaghan star and his brother Kieran.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said.
“We set out coming here not to let Ballybay score goals. We knew that was their oxygen and they had a good start, but we were happy that they had not conceded any goals and that was crucial to us pushing forward. We knew the game would open up in the last 15 and that is what happened.
“Players keep striving here. We won one in 13 and lost one and that gave us the hunger to come back. When you win it, you get greedy and you don’t want anyone else to win. You are jealous then when someone else does.”
As his disappointed players changed in the Gerry Arthur Stand, Ballybay manager Colin Malone reflected on a 10-point drubbing that had looked unlikely in the first half. The Pearse Brothers outfit managed just one point after the break and Malone had regrets, but no complaints, with the result.
“The better team won on the day,” he said.
“We started well, which we tend to do in games, and we tagged on a few scores. At the first water break we were going alright but we hit a bad spell then and they got on top of us.
“We kicked a few short which didn’t help our case but Scotstown fully deserved their win.”
The final couldn’t have started much better for Malone’s men.
Paul Finlay, wearing 15, jumped highest at the throw-in and the ball was worked up to Tieran McSkean, who had a pop and found the target to give the underdogs an immediate lead.
McSkean continued his bright start with the pass that allowed Christopher McGuinness to add another and when pacey half-back Colm Lennon was dragged down twice, either side of Matthew Maguire’s opener for Scotstown, Finlay landed both frees to leave his side 0-4 to 0-1 ahead.
But, as Ballybay’s early adrenalin evaporated in the September sun, experienced An Bhoth refused to panic and they began to find their feet.
Paul Sherlock pulled one back before the water break and frees from McCarthy and Shane Carey had Scotstown back on level terms quickly after the action resumed.
Sensing blood, Scotstown pushed up on the Ballybay kick-outs and forced another free for McCarthy who scored to give them the lead for the first time. Ballybay reacted by flooding the middle but they struggled to win ball and, despite missing three straightforward chances and having Frank Caulfield black-carded, An Bhoth led 0-8 to 0-6 when Pat McEnaney blew the half-time whistle.
And that’s the way it stayed for 15 scrappy second half minutes. Scotstown kicked five wides and their opponents, who had to work much harder for their chances, dropped three shots into Rory Beggan’s hands.
Eventually it was McCarthy who broke the deadlock. Springing high to field a Kieran Hughes free and splitting the posts with a mark.
Meanwhile, Ballybay could not get a footing in the game. They carried the ball into tackles over and over and again and were turned over by strong Scotstown tackling. Finlay, soldiering on, landed a free, but gradually the net closed in on his side.
A McCarthy score, two frees from Beggan and another point from captain Carey extended Scotstown’s lead to double-scores (0-7 to 0-14) and then man of the match McCarthy added the cherry to the cake when he broke away from marker Aaron Toner, sent Adam Counihan the wrong way and rolled the ball into the net.
The only disappointment for Scotstown is that there’s no Ulster Club Championship to chase this year.
Scotstown: R Beggan (0-3, 0-2 frees, 0-1 45); J McDevitt, D McArdle, D Morgan; M Meehan, R O’Toole, F Caulfield; D Hughes, K Hughes; C McCarthy (1-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 mark), S Carey (0-3, 0-1 free), P Sherlock (0-1); M Maguire (0-1), O Heaphey, F Maguire
Subs: B Boylan for F Caulfield (38), S Mohan for Heaphey (51), R McKenna for F Maguire (52), E Caulfield for M Maguire (59), J Hamill for McDevitt (60)
Yellow card: Heaphey (20)
Black card: F Caulfield (28)
Ballybay: A Counihan; M Hannon, D Wylie, E McKearney; B Wylie, C Lennon, R Wylie; C Galligan, D Ward; T McSkean (0-1), S McGuinness, T Kerr (0-1 free); P O’Neill, C McGuinness (0-1), P Finlay (0-4 frees)
Subs: T O’Neill for P O’Neill (48), D Drury for D Wylie (48), D McCann for S McGuinness (51), S McQuillan for B Wylie (55), A Toner for Galligan (55)
Referee: P McEnaney (Corduff)