Monaghan knock holders Tyrone out after penalty shoot-out drama

Monaghan keeper Jamie Mooney celebrates his team's shoot-out victory over Tyrone in Roslea Picture by Philip Walsh
Monaghan keeper Jamie Mooney celebrates his team's shoot-out victory over Tyrone in Roslea Picture by Philip Walsh

Electric Ireland Ulster MFC semi-final: Tyrone 4-13 Monaghan 2-19 (after extra-time, Monaghan win 6-5 on pens)

FEARLESS, resilient and utterly unflappable, Monaghan somehow rebounded from a series of knock-out blows to land the ultimate sucker-punch as they stunned holders Tyrone to reach the Ulster MFC decider.

A roller-coaster semi-final turned a sleepy Fermanagh afternoon into an unforgettable riot of thrills and twists, laced with quality, excitement and unpredictability.

The sides could not be separated, even by extra-time, and it took the crude and cruel instrument of a penalty shoot-out to script a stirring conclusion to this captivating tale of the unexpected.

Time and again the Farney lads fought back from significant deficits to stay in the game, pushing the pre-match favourites all the way and eventually to breaking point as it came down to the spot-kick lottery.

And goalkeeper Jamie Mooney emerged as the hero at Roslea with four saves to send his side through to next weekend’s provincial final against Derry.

Tyrone’s perfect start didn’t faze their opponents, as James Corry flew through to fire a low shot to the net less than two minutes in.

They went five clear moments later, but the response was electrifying, as the Farney replied with 2-3 in the space of eight minutes to seize the lead.

Full-forward Matthew Finn danced through for a brilliant solo goal, and when Canice Murphy crossed for Luke McKenna to palm home, they led by 2-3 to 1-2.

But Tyrone themselves had an instant riposte in the form of a superbly struck Liam Lawn goal, and a string of points from Aidan Hegarty, Ruairi McCullagh and Leo Hughes had them back in front by two.

Finn landed a couple of mighty scores, but McCullagh’s stoppage-time effort sent the holders in with a 2-9 to 2-6 interval lead.

Max McGinnity’s place-kicking accuracy was spot on, and Finn was on target from a ’45, but Tyrone had control again when Leo Hughes smashed the ball to the roof of the net for their third goal on 43 minutes.

But they managed just one further score in the remainder of the half as Monaghan rallied once more, McKenna on target before substitute Sean Og McElwain made an instant impact with two wonderful scores.

Still, they needed an equaliser deep into stoppage-time from a McGinnity free to keep their title hopes alive, tying it up at 3-10 to 2-13 to send an epic to extra-time.

And Monaghan were pressed back onto the ropes with another onslaught which saw the provincial champions fire in 1-3, including a goal from substitute Liam Corry, to go five ahead at the turnaround, 4-13 to 2-14.

The issue appeared to be well and truly decided as the first seven of the 10 remaining minutes failed to produce a score for either side, but Monaghan never lost composure or focus, and displayed remarkable resilience to drag themselves back into it yet again, chipping away at the lead.

And it was McGinnity, with two deadly finishes from free kicks deep into injury-time, that brought them level, 4-13 to 2-19.

On to penalties, and Monaghan ‘keeper Mooney was the shoot-out hero, saving four.

His opposite number Oisin Watson also rose to the challenge with three stops, but the Farney county, with successful spot kicks from McGinnity, McElwain (2), Matthew Carolan (2) and Conor Jones, went through on a 6-5 score.

Monaghan: J Mooney (0-1, ’45); E McCaffrey, C Greenan, C Meehan; A Stuart, T Mallen (0-1), J Lynch; M Carolan (0-1), C Murphy; O Maher, M McGinnity (0-8, 8f), J McCrystal; T Quinn, M Finn (1-4 (0-1 ’45), L McKenna (1-2).

Subs: M Maguire for Maher (h-t), C Jones for McCrystal (h-t), S Og McElwain (0-2) for McCaffrey (50), T Doherty for Murphy (54), C Clerkin for Stuart (64), J McCaughey for Meehan (68), McCrystal for Finn (71)

Tyrone: O Watson; B Lynch, J Rafferty, S Fay; C Devlin, C O’Neill, B Gallagher; J Corry (1-0), N Farry (0-2, 1f); D Donaghy, R McCullagh (0-6, 4f), L Hughes (1-2); L Lawn (1-0), A Hegarty (0-1), S Corry.

Subs: L Corry (1-0) for Lawn (50), M Howe for Donaghy (55), J Concannon (0-1) for Hegarty (55), K Nelson for Howe (61), T Taggart (0-1) for Fay (61), Lawn for O’Neill (74), Howe for Nelson (75)

Referee: D O’Hare (Down)