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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Monaghan hold on grimly as Donegal left to rue missed chances

19 July 2015; Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke celebrates with Eoin Lennon after the game. Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Donegal v Monaghan, St Tiernach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
19 July 2015; Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke celebrates with Eoin Lennon after the game. Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Donegal v Monaghan, St Tiernach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
19 July 2015; Tommy Bowe, Ireland and Ulster rugby player, at the game. Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Donegal v Monaghan, St Tiernach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Monaghan withstood a fiercely intense Donegal onslaught in the final quarter to win the Ulster senior football title for a 15th time in Clones.

Patrick McBrearty had a chance to level it for the defending champions in the final minute but his long-range effort drifted wide.

It summed up what had been a deeply frustrating second half for Donegal, who shot no fewer than 11 wides, whereas Monaghan kept their misses down to four in the same period.

That was a key difference between two sides, who fought out a wonderfully enthralling game, played in a great spirit in front of a crowd of 31,997.

The free count (25) was unusually low as both sides concentrated on the more positive qualities, albeit off very defensive bases.

There were times when either side had only one forward within 40 metres of the opponents' goal, while the middle third was jammed with traffic.

Monaghan handled it better overall, especially in the second and third quarters when they scored eight of their 11 points.

That took them into a five-point lead after 50 minutes (0-11 to 0-6) and while they failed to score in the final 20 minutes, they restricted Donegal to four points. It's a period Donegal will regret as they had several great chances, only to hoof them wide, some by very wide margins.

Monaghan's win takes them directly into the All-Ireland quarter-final while Donegal head for a Round 4 qualifer tie in an effort to keep their championship ambitions alive.

Donegal made a very impressive start, scoring two points in the opening three minutes from Paddy McBrearty and Karl Lacey. Monaghan took a little while to lock the defensive bolts but once they slotted various pieces together, Donegal found it much more difficult to make progress.

Indeed, as the half progressed, Donegal grew increasingly frustrated and, in addition to being dispossessed on a number of occasions, they also shot some bad wides.

That's was uncharacteristic of Donegal, who are usually very economical, but with Monaghan pressing them at every turn, they were forced into hasty shooting.

Monghan found it difficult to break down the massed Donegal defence in the first quarter too, but they gradually settled into a patient rhythm, which proved most productive.

They led by 0-6 to 0-3 after 32 minutes, having prevented Donegal from scoring for 27 minutes. Michael Murphy ended the drought with a pointed free but a thundering long range effort from Dessie Mone and another from Ciaran McManus left Monaghan ahead by 0-8 to 0-4 at the interval.

McManus, who delivered another excellent performance, kicked two points while Owen Lennon added another in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, before Donegal's fightback.

Scorers: Monaghan: C McManus 0-6 (4f), K O'Connell, O Duffy, K Duffy, D Mone, O Lennon 0-1 each. Donegal: P McBrearty 0-6 (4f), M Murphy 0-2 (2f), K Lacey, F McGlynn 0-1 each.

Monaghan: R Beggan; D Mone, V Corey, R Wylie; C Walshe, F Kelly, K O'Connell; N McAdam, D Hughes; O Duffy, O Lennon, K Duffy; D Malone, K Hughes, C McManus. Subs: R McAnespie for O Duffy (45), S Gallogly for Malone (53), D Clerkin for Lennon (69).

Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; R McHugh, K Lacey, F McGlynn; N Gallagher, M McElhinney; C Toye, O MacNiallais, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden. Subs: M O'Reilly for Toye (32), A Thompson for Lacey (41), D O'Connor for McFadden (52), L McCloone for MacNiallais (68).

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)

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