Paddy McBrearty blow injury to insult for Donegal as Monaghan get off the mark

Monaghan's Dessie Ward and Donegal's Caolan McGonagle battle for possession during an intriguing Division One clash in Clones, with the Farneymen bagging both League points
Monaghan's Dessie Ward and Donegal's Caolan McGonagle battle for possession during an intriguing Division One clash in Clones, with the Farneymen bagging both League points Monaghan's Dessie Ward and Donegal's Caolan McGonagle battle for possession during an intriguing Division One clash in Clones, with the Farneymen bagging both League points

Allianz National Football League Division One round three: Monaghan 1-20 Donegal 0-15

THE opening day downing of the All-Ireland champions was but a distant dream as the Donegal players trudged from the field in Clones.

Three weeks on from those jubilant scenes at a sodden Pairc MacCumhhaill, the Tir Chonaill are in trouble. Real trouble. A Tyrone team hardly firing on all cylinders themselves made easy work of Donegal in Omagh before a one-sided second half saw them leave Monaghan empty-handed this afternoon.

As if back-to-back defeats wasn’t bad enough, the man who scored that stunning late winner against Kerry will play no further part in this League campaign, with Donegal boss Paddy Carr confirming that a tear to Patrick McBrearty’s hamstring required surgery.

“Unfortunately it’s a serious enough injury, so he’s going to be out now for the foreseeable future,” said Carr, who hopes to have his star forward back in time for Championship.

“That’s what we’re looking at. His season has not ended, far from it.”

Donegal will certainly hope that is the case as, with McBrearty’s absence, their bid to secure Division One survival suffers a serious setback. Still adapting to life after Michael Murphy, and in the early stages of a new managerial regime, they look a side not entirely sure of themselves.

Monaghan are in a similar boat too, of course, but having arrested an early season slide that saw them slip to the bottom of the table before the League break, life is at least looking up.

Indeed, even before those defeats to Armagh and Kerry, this particular Sunday was likely to have been ringed in the calendar.

The edginess could be felt on the walk up the hill, supporters from both counties knowing pressure would be heaped on whoever came out the wrong side of this Ulster derby.

That mood was reflected out on the field in a strangely subdued first half, one where the crowd craves something to get them going, while the players long for a roar that gets the heart thumping that little bit harder.

Instead they played in front of each other – Donegal with a decent breeze but unable to make it pay, with Monaghan content to sit in and keep it tight. The pace of Oisin Gallen, back in the frame after an injury-hit few years, carried a bit of menace, while Michael Langan made his presence felt upon his return with a couple of classy scores.

Rory Beggan drew the wedge to send over three first half frees as Monaghan stuck to Donegal like glue, the sides level six times before the Tir Chonaill went in a point ahead.

“You could feel boys were maybe playing within themselves, a wee bit of doubt out there,” said Farney boss Vinny Corey.

“Once they got in at half-time and settled down, they really opened up in the second half.”

They had to show a bit of bottle too.

When a Langan score edged Donegal two ahead after 46 minutes, it was the first time any daylight had existed. A familiar story looked to be unfolding as Tir Chonaill tails were up but, after the Farney pulled level again, Jamie Brennan saw a shot crash back out off the crossbar.

The momentum had moved in Monaghan’s direction and, with Stephen O’Hanlon and the buccaneering Micheal Bannigan carrying the fight, they squeezed the life out of Shaun Patton’s kick-outs to rattle off six unanswered scores that left them in the driving seat, 0-15 to 0-11.

And while Donegal come to terms with McBrearty’s loss, the benefit of such big game know-how stared them right in the face at the other end as Monaghan closed this game out.

Darren Hughes and Jack McCarron were drafted back into Monaghan’s starting 15, with Hughes steadying the Farney ship in that familiar sweeping role while McCarron - returning from the hamstring strain that forced him off in the first minute against the Orchard - posed enough danger to occupy the Donegal defence.

When McCarron’s race was run with Monaghan four up, he was replaced by Conor McManus. Corey’s Clontribret club-mate hadn’t kicked a ball in county colours this year, yet within three minutes his peerless movement saw him win, and convert, a couple of marks to edge the Farney into a commanding lead.

You can’t put a price on experience and, in a League of such wafer-thin margins, those timely interventions matter more than ever.

“There’s a lot of soul-searching going on inside there, and that’s the way it has to be,” said Paddy Carr.

“A lot of the scores Monaghan got came from us allowing ourselves to be turned over. A few lads out there were turned over four or five times, and in Division One you’re punished all the time for that.”

Exciting youngster Sean Jones came off the bench to coolly convert a late goal as the Farney pulled away, with children flooding the field as soon as the long whistle sounded, hunting down those in white jerseys looking anything signed – boots, jerseys, footballs, even foreheads all dabbed in ink on a day when Clones saw a campaign get the kick-start it so badly needed.

“Momentum’s a big thing, and nobody wants to lose three in-a-row,” said a relieved Corey, whose side welcome on-song Roscommon to St Tiernach’s Park on Sunday.

“It was important – it’s always been important in Monaghan – that any time you have a dip you dust yourself down and get back up again. We were keen to see that in the players, and we got that in the second half.”

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-3, frees); T McPhillips, K Duffy (0-1); D Hughes; C Boyle, D Ward, R Wylie; K Lavelle, G Mohan; K Gallagher, M Bannigan (0-1), S O’Hanlon (0-3); S Carey (0-1); C McCarthy (0-1), J McCarron (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 mark). Subs: C Lennon for Lavelle (19), S Jones (1-2) for Carey (48), K O’Connell for Lennon (59), C McManus (0-2, marks) for McCarron (62), A Mulligan for McCarthy (70)

Yellow card: D Hughes (65)

Donegal: S Patton; M Curran, B McCole; C Ward; C McColgan, S McMenamin, E Bán Gallagher; H McFadden, C McGonagle (0-1), J McGee; C O’Donnell (0-3), D Ó Baoill (0-1), M Langan (0-4); O Gallen (0-5, 0-4 frees), J Brennan (0-1). Subs: P Mogan for McColgan (45), L McGlynn for Ward (59), R McFadden for H McFadden (67), J McGroddy for McGee (70+2)

Yellow cards: O Gallen (50), D O Baoill (63)

Ref: N Mooney (Cavan)