Monaghan 1-12 Antrim 1-9
Monaghan came from behind to get their Ulster SFC challenge off to a winning start at Clones.
James Loughrey’s 45th minute goal had set Antrim up for a shock as they went three points clear, but the Farney men displayed composure and a strong bench as they snuffed out the Saffron challenge with a strong final quarter showing.
They outscored Liam Bradley’s side by seven points to one in the final 18 minutes to set up a semi-final clash with either Fermanagh or Down, who play next week.
Monaghan’s debutant wing back Karl O’Connell gave Monaghan a dream start with a goal after just 30 seconds, netting on the rebound after his initial effort had been saved by goalkeeper Chris Kerr.
But the home side struggled to build on that early boost, and suffered a blow in the19th minute when skipper Paul Finlay was forced out of the game by a shoulder injury.
Paddy Cunningham steered over a couple of Antrim frees, after Finlay and Owen Lennon had hit the target for Monaghan.
Just a point separated the sides by the 32nd minute when Antrim midfielder Michael McCann thumped over a long range effort, but Monaghan substitute Kieran Hughes made an impact with a couple of well taken scores.
Cunningham’s third point of the contest made it a two point game, and it was Eamonn McEneaney’s side that led by 1-4 to 0-5 at the break.
Dick Clerkin’s long range point was cancelled out by an equally spectacular effort from his opposite number Aodhan Gallagher.
But Antrim hit the front in the 45th minute when Magill offloaded for James Loughrey to collect at pace and blast an angled shot to the top corner of the net.
Target man Magill was the central character as the Saffrons opened out a three points lead with points from Michael McCann and Mark McAleese.
But Monaghan, with Tommy Freeman a surprise appearance from the bench, hit back, with points from Conor McManus and Freeman, before Clerkin punched over the equaliser on 56 minutes
It was Freeman who shot Monaghan back in front with just over 10 minutes to play following the latest in a series of turnovers that had blighted Antrim’s challenge.
Cunningham levelled again as the game built towards a thrilling climax, with Monaghan’s patient and measured build-up finishing with centre back Dessie Mone powering over a point.
And they finished with a swagger, late points from Pete Dooney and McManus giving them a three-point winning margin.
Monaghan scorers: K O’Connell 1-0, K Hughes (1f), C McManus (2f), D Clerkin, T Freeman 0-2 each, D Mone, O Lennon, P Finlay (f), P Dooney 0-1 each
Antrim scorers: J Loughrey 1-0, P Cunningham 0-4 (2f), M McCann 0-2, A Gallagher, M Magill, M McAleese 0-1 each
Monaghan: M Keogh, D Morgan, V Corey, C Walshe, K O’Connell, D Mone, K Duffy, O Lennon, D Clerkin, M McKenna, S Gollogly, J Turley, C McGuinness, P Finlay, C McManus.
Subs: K Hughes for Finlay, T Freeman for McGuinness, P Dooney for McKenna, D Wylie for Duffy
Antrim: C Kerr, A Healy, R Johnston, K O’Boyle, T Scullion, J Crozier, J Loughrey, M McCann, A Gallagher, C Murray, M Sweeney, M McAleese, P Cunningham, M Magill, T McCann.
Subs: O Gallagher for Scullion, C Kelly for Murray, B Neeson for Magill
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).