GAA Football

Monaghan fight back to edge out Armagh in penalty shoot-out and reach Dr McKenna Cup final

Opposite numbers. Armagh's Niall Rowland and Monaghan’s Dessie Ward in the thick of the action at the Athletic Grounds. Picture by Hugh Russell
Andy Watters

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup semi-final: Armagh 0-15 Monaghan 0-15 (Monaghan won 5-4 on penalties)

MONAGHAN will meet Donegal in the Dr McKenna Cup final after they held their nerve to win the competition’s first-ever penalty shoot-out last night.

The game had finished 0-15 apiece and Conor McCarthy, Aaron Mulligan, Shane Carey, Jack McCarron and David Garland and Armagh’s Rian O’Neill, Aidan Nugent, Rory Grugan and Stefan Campbell had all scored before Jemar Hall – under immense pressure – sent his penalty just over the bar. It was cruel luck for the Forkhill clubman but credit to Monaghan who trailed by four points at the break but briefly took the lead in a breathless second half before Campbell’s point forced the shootout.

The game began with Monaghan’s Conor Leonard, all 6’5” of him, rising to win the throw-in but he injured himself as he landed heavily. Bravely, he tried to play on but was stretchered off after less than three minutes.

Armagh started with Rory Grugan and Andrew Murnin up front but even they were back inside their 45-yard line as the visitors indulged in a prolonged period of back-and-across handpassing that was going nowhere in particular when it ended with Niall Grimley’s interception.

Armagh broke from there and Murnin – looking sharp on his first start of the year - grabbed a mark but elected to pass and Ross McQuillan shot wide before Grugan did the same off his normally reliable left boot.

Rory Beggan also missed two chances and eventually it was Grugan who opened the scoring 13 minutes in after a move that Conor O’Neill started finished with him being fouled near the posts.

Stefan Campbell struck a wind-assisted effort to double Armagh’s early lead and Monaghan – who had regular forward Conor McCarthy in defence and regular defender Colin Walshe at full-forward - were soon three behind when Aidan Forker (part of an all-Maghery full-back line) joined the attack and split the posts with a confident finish.

Monaghan’s final ball was poor but Armagh gifted them two chances – Shane Carey missed the first but Andrew Woods eventually opened their account with curling finish on the 21-minute mark.

Armagh had restored their three-point cushion before the water break. Grugan’s sliderule pass found Murnin who broke to the left and then whipped the ball over the bar from a tight angle.

Colm Lennon – a midfielder for Ballybay but playing corner-back last night – pulled a point back but Niall Grimley and Grugan both landed frees for Armagh.

McCarthy took a brilliant pass from Ryan McAnespie and kept Monaghan in touch but Micheal Bannigan missed another easy free and Grugan showed him how it was done with his third of the half.

Grimley got his second before Dessie Ward – the best player on show for sluggish Monaghan in the first half – was brought down and this time Beggan did hit the target to leave it 0-8 to 0-4 at the break.

David Garland took over the free-taking early in the second half and had scored twice either side of an Aidan Nugent mark before full-back Conor Boyle popped up to leave just two points in it.

Beggan landed a 45 to leave it 0-9 to 0-8 and the action was fast and furious as both teams introduced a string of substitutes. Armagh’s had more of an impact and Crossmaglen’s O’Neill landed two for the home side but McCarthy and then Boyle replied for the Farneymen.

Armagh had their noses 0-11 to 0-10 in front as the final quarter began and the temperature was rising when Nugent burst through the Monaghan defence. He was fouled and took the free himself to open a two-point gap. Karl O’Connell answered with one of the scores of the night but Grugan replied and Rian O’Neill made a difficult free look very simple to edge Armagh into a 0-14 to 0-11 lead.

Monaghan clung to their coat-tails though and Jack McCarron (a free) and McCarthy cut the deficit to a point with three minutes left.

There was no-one (not even Beggan) in the Monaghan half when tireless Boyle broke up the left and won a free that McCarron converted to level it as the game went into four minutes of injury-time.

Fifteen seconds of it had elapsed when Jarly Og Burns clipped Boyle’s heels and McCarron gave Monaghan the lead for the first time before Campbell cut in from the right and equalised. Penalty drama followed and Hall's miss decided the issue.

Armagh: S Magill; A Forker (0-1), C Higgins, B Haveron; Conor Mackin, N Rowland, C O’Neill; Ciaran Mackin, N Grimley (0-2, 0-1 free); T Kelly, C O’Hanlon, R McQuillan; R Grugan (0-4 frees), A Murnin (0-1), S Campbell (0-2)

Subs: M Shields for C O’Neill (25), J Og Burns for Haveron (HT), R O’Neill (0-3 frees) for O’Hanlon (HT), A Nugent (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 mark) for Kelly (HT), R Finn for Forker (50), P McGrane for Rowland (50), B Crealey for R McQuillan (50), A McKay for Higgins (55), J Hall for Murnin (55), B McCambridge for Finn (60)

Yellow card: O’Hanlon (29), R O’Neill (55), Ciaran Mackin (63)

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 45); C Lennon (0-1), C Boyle (0-2), R Wylie; J Mealiff, D Ward, C McCarthy (0-3); N Kearns, C Leonard; S Carey, M Bannigan, R McAnespie; A Woods (0-1), C Walshe, D Garland (0-2 frees)

Subs: K Lavelle for Leonard (3), D Wylie for Ward (HT), D Hughes for Walshe (HT), S Hanratty for Lennon (HT), D McElearney for Mealiff (46), A Mulligan for Woods (46), J Irwin for McAnespie (53), K O’Connell (0-1) for Garland (55), J McCarron (0-3) for Kearns (55), K Gallagher for Carey (60), Garland for Bannigan (65), Carey for Lavelle (73)

Yellow card: Walshe (5), Carey (58), Garland (72)

Referee: C Dourneen (Cavan)

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GAA Football