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Friday 15 December 2017

Coulter: 'Comeback as good as reaching All-Ireland final'

DOWN are through to the Ulster SFC after completing a remarkable revival against Monaghan in the Athletic Grounds yesterday.

Trailing by a whopping nine points with just moments left in the first half, Conor Laverty won a stoppage-time penalty and Aidan Carr converted for what would turn out to be a lifeline and the turning point in Down's 1-14 to 1-13 win.

"If you had told me with five minutes of the first half to go that we would be in an Ulster final, I'd have laughed," reflected Benny Coulter, who, only seven weeks after breaking his ankle, came on and kicked a point within 20 seconds of his introduction.

"This is probably one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life. I've got to an All-Ireland final but this is just as good."

At 0-11 to 1-2 at half-time, the prognosis was still decidedly bleak for the Mournemen. Conor McManus had run amuck at corner-forward and like Paul Finlay, finished up with 0-5 (3f).

In midfield, Dick Clerkin was dominating the exchanges and it took the half-time whistle before there was any sign of a revival from Down.

Even then, Tommy Freeman appeared from the Monaghan bench and scored a disputed goal, after Down thought the play had been stopped for the referee to book Brendan McArdle, but quick-thinking by McManus teed Freeman up.

Down trailed by three with five minutes to go, but points from Liam Doyle, Coulter and Aidan Carr brought them level before Darren O'Hagan fisted a late, dramatic winner in injury-time.

Monaghan still had the chance for force a replay but Clerkin missed from 30 yards out with Ciarán Hanratty inside him in acres of space.

"The reality is that we had the game won and we gave it to them," admitted Farney boss, Eamon McEneaney.

"We dropped back and let them come on to us. We took pot-shots at times in the second half when we should have been doing what we were doing in the first half, laying the ball off to the shooter and let him put it over the bar."

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