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Dark horses Down hang on by a thread to stun Monaghan and book Ulster final

Down are back in their first Ulster final since 2012.

Image: Presseye/Philip Magowan/INPHO

Down 1-14

Monaghan 0-15

DOWN WILL FACE Tyrone in the Ulster final on 16 July after a thrilling win over Monaghan at the Athletic Grounds.

Monaghan were raging-hot favourites to seal their fourth provincial decider in five years, but Down backed up their win over Armagh by upsetting the applecart once again.

It marked 21-point turnaround for Down against Monaghan in the space of a year, following Monaghan’s 2-22 to 0-9 victory in last year’s Ulster SFC quarter-final.

The win means Down are back in their first Ulster final since 2012 and just their second since the turn of the century.

After leading by two at half-time, Darragh O’Hanlon’s goal from a penalty pushed Eamonn Burns’s seven in front on 41 minutes.

The Down legs tired down the stretch and they went 21 minutes without a score in the second-half as Monaghan threw everything at them. Jack McCarron sent a late free wide before Donal O’Hare hit the winner in the dying seconds.

Monaghan led by 0-3 to 0-1 after the opening quarter, but were left to rue five early wides.

The Farney were a point in front midway through the half before Down took control and hit five on the bounce. Harrison bagged two, while Shay Millar, O’Hanlon (free) and Kevin McKernan all landed points to send their side 0-9 to 0-5 in front.

Niall Donnelly Source: Presseye/Philip Magowan/INPHO

McManus and McCarron both chipped in with points as Monaghan whittled that lead down to two by the break.

O’Hanlon slotted home a penalty shortly after the restart which, coupled with points from goalkeeper Michael Cunningham and McKernan, pushed Down seven in front.

McManus was key as the Farney edged back into the game, while McCarron and Kieran Hughes also kicked efforts to bring them back within a single point.

Down had a goal disallowed late on after a foul on Rory Beggan when it appeared he picked up the ball outside of the small parallelogram.

Down hung in as Monaghan chased a late equaliser, hitting late wides through Drew Wylie and McCarron. O’Hare intervened on Down beakaway in the final seconds to put the icing on the cake.

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Kevin O'Brien

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