Monaghan cruise clear to victory despite decent Fermanagh finish
Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section C, round two: Monaghan 0-16 Fermanagh 0-11
ALMOST certain progress to the semi-finals assured for Monaghan, whereas Fermanagh's hopes are almost certainly over already, but both counties could find plenty of positives from this encounter.
The hosts, with their official outfielders changed entirely from their opening draw away to Derry on Friday night, only goalkeeper Rory Beggan retained, were still in command for most of this match and eased to victory with 11 different scorers.
The visitors, in their first competitive outing under the new management of Kieran Donnelly, and after Covid-19 afflicted most of their panel last month, grew into the game and recorded four of the last five scores, missing other opportunities to make the outcome closer.
In truth, Monaghan won 'pulling up', after sending on seven substitutes from the 45th minute onwards, compared to just one for their opponents. However, both bosses were quite rightly well pleased with the contribution of new faces to the senior scene.
Monaghan manager Seamus McEneaney handed out full debuts to full-back Shane Woods of Inniskeen, Corduff wing-back Fergal Hanratty, Conor Leonard of Smithborough - and Roslea parish - at midfield, and wing-forwards Jason Irwin of Oram and Emyvale's Karl Gallagher.
Woods and Leonard stood out, the former pipping the latter to the official 'man of the match' award, while Hanratty had a very good first half.
For Fermanagh, attention focussed on a relative newcomer to the game, James Ferguson, a rugby player with Enniskillen 'Skins', who did well in the full-back line along with Garret Cavanagh of Belnaleck. Lisnaskea's Joe McDade in midfield and Ronan McCaffrey of Teemore at half-forwards also acquitted themselves well as the Ernemen begin another new era.
The visitors started brightly, leading twice in the opening quarter hour, before Monaghan began to dominate, with Hanratty and even Woods pushing forward strongly.
Conor McCarthy, also finding freedom to get forward from wing-back, combined well with Gallagher to release centre half-back James Mealiff towards goal but he hesitated and then chose to fist the ball over rather than shooting at the net.
The hosts added three more scores after the first water break, including one on the run from Woods, before Fermanagh at last responded. Ryan Lyons slipped in for a fisted effort which Beggan clawed away, but Sean Quigley converted the resultant '45'.
The problem for Fermanagh was that the Roslea man was rarely able to escape the limpet-like clutches of man-marker Kieran Duffy in open play, while their full-forward Darragh McGurn was similarly shackled by Woods.
Despite a second score from play by the visitors' centre half-back, James McMahon, Jack McCarron sent Monaghan in at the break with a four-point lead, 0-9 to 0-5.
The game was then won inside the first three minutes of the second half, the hosts rattling off three more scores, a fine brace from young corner-forward Aaron Mulligan either side of an equally good one from McCarthy. All of a sudden Monaghan led by seven, and they stretched that advantage to eight within another three minutes through centre half-forward Shane Carey.
The sides swapped scores twice after that, and changed players, with Brandon Horan of Enniskillen Gaels the only alteration for Fermanagh.
Former captain and corner-back Colin Walshe, who now seems to be an attacker for Monaghan, soon set up a score for Duffy, and Leonard capped an impressive display with a score, but the changes soon began to work against Monaghan.
Perhaps the more positive assessment is that Fermanagh began to work better together as a team, and they might have worried Monaghan more if Quigley had been able to convert a couple of scoreable frees.
However, they were fortunate that McMahon was only shown a yellow card for a flick to the face of McCarthy, allowing the Roslea man to set up the last score of the game for Lyons, along with new boy Ferguson.
Fermanagh will get more game-time and experience on Saturday, hosting Derry in Roslea, but even if they beat the Oak Leafers they are unlikely to reach the semi-finals - but Monaghan should be in that draw.
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-2 frees); K Duffy (0-1), S Woods (0-1), C Lennon; F Hanratty, J Mealiff (0-1), C McCarthy (0-1); C Leonard (0-1), K Hughes (0-1); J Irwin, S Carey (0-2, 0-1 free), K Gallagher; A Mulligan (0-2), J McCarron (0-2, 0-1 free), M Bannigan (0-2).
Substitutes: R McAnespie for Hughes (45); C Walshe for McCarron (45); B McBennett for Irwin (49); G Mohan for Bannigan (49); N Kearns for Leonard (55); D McAlearney for Gallagher (55); D Garland for Hanratty (64);
Fermanagh: S McNally; J Ferguson, G Cavanagh, D McCusker; D Leonard, J McMahon (0-2), R Lyons (0-1); T Bogue, J McDade (0-1); A Breen (0-1), J Largo Ellis, R McCaffrey (0-1); L McStravick, D McGurn (0-2, 0-1 free), S Quigley (0-3, 0-1 '45, 0-2 frees).
Substitute: B Horan for McStravick (45).
Referee: Kieran Eannetta (Tyrone).