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14-man Monaghan find extra gear to power past Antrim

Antrim could not capitalise on a mixed day at the office for the Farney men.

Conor McManus of Monaghan and Kevin O'Boyle of Antrim.
Conor McManus of Monaghan and Kevin O'Boyle of Antrim.
Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

Antrim 0-6

Monaghan 0-11

MONAGHAN WILL ADVANCE to the Ulster SFC semi-final after today’s topsy-turvy 0-11 to 0-6 win over Antrim at Casement Park.

In the minutes around half-time, the visitors to Belfast looked to be creaking under the pressure, despite bursting out of the traps early on.

A 0-5 to 0-1 lead had been completely reeled in by Antrim before Monaghan’s Neil McAdam was shown the line for a high challenge and a second yellow card early in the second half.

The momentum seemed to lie completely with the hosts, but that was the point at which Monaghan suddenly found their rhythm again. And they would string six unanswered scores together to give balance to their atrocious number of wides.

The Farney county dominated the early exchanges and opened up a commanding 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 21 minutes. But the north-east province roared back with three unanswered points before the break.

Conor McManus opened the scoring from a free. The forward performing well despite Antrim adding Justin Crozier to the bulwark.

Kevin Niblock, leveled the scores two minutes later, but in the minutes that followed, he must have wondered whether that was the time to take aim for goal. Darren Hughes restored the lead after 14 minutes and the Farney looked a good bet to push on.

Antrim continued to pack the defence, but Monaghan found opportunities from frees and Paul Finlay made up for a poor early effort by opening up a 0-3 to 0-1 lead.

Owen Duffy and McManus pushed Monaghan further ahead before Antrim finally began creating openings. Paddy Cunningham, and then Niblock shot wide before Sean McVeigh landed a terrific score. And the Ballymena man roused the majority of the 7,713 in attendance with another score to bring the Saffrons back within two in the 27th minute.

The gap was whittled down to the minimum before half time, Niblock making no error from a free hard-won by Paddy Cunningham to leave the half time score 0-5 to 0-4 in the visitors’ favour.

Antrim were going strong, but lost Niblock to injury just before the break. Still, they leveled matters through Cunningham and when McAdam was issued a second yellow for a high challenge the game looked to be theirs for the taking.

Once more, though, Monaghan dug deep. Dessie Mone put them back in the lead, McGuinness and then two frees from McManus saw them stretch clear to a 0-9 t0 0-5 lead. The scoring runs, it seemed, came in bursts of four from each side.

That sequence was broken with the introduction of Tommy Freeman. After finding his range with a wide soon after springing off the side-line, he had pointed Monaghan’s fifth without reply in the 55th minute. The extra man, proving absolutely no advantage to the home side.

From there on in, the game descended into a mess. With the visitors content to spoil and Antrim unable to conjure up the memory of the first-half fight back.

The sides traded scores deep into injury time, but the game had been settled in the 10 minutes after Monaghan were reduced to 14 men.

ANTRIM: Chris Kerr (St Gall’s); Kevin O’Boyle (Cargin), Ricky Johnston (Creggan), Andy McClean (St Gall’s); Sean Kelly (St Gall’s), Justin Crozier (Creggan), Patrick McBride (St John’s); Sean McVeigh (Ballymena), Marty Johnston (Creggan); Anthony Healy (St Gall’s), Paddy Cunningham (Lamh Dhearg), Mark Sweeney (St Brigid’s); Michael Pollock (St Gall’s), Kevin Niblock (St Gall’s), Brendan Herron (Lamh Dhearg).
MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan (Scotstown); Kieran Duffy (Latton), Fintan Kelly (Clones), Colin Walshe (Doohamlet); Dessie Mone (Clontibret), Neil McAdam (Monaghan Harps), Darren Hughes (Scotstown); Dick Clerkin (Currin), Owen Lennon (Latton); Paul Finlay (Ballybay), Vinny Corey, Eoin Duffy (Latton); Christopher McGuinness (Ballybay), Kieran Hughes (Scotstown), Conor McManus (Clontibret).

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Sean Farrell

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