Hughes strikes to earn final spot for Monaghan

Down 0-13 Monaghan 1-12

Hughes strikes to earn final spot for Monaghan

The sides were level five times in the second half but Down made all the running and must have thought they’d done enough to snatch a win when Danny Savage pointed a 68th minute free.

Monaghan were almost solely reliant on the scoring power of Conor McManus, who kicked a superb 1-7 in the Athletic Grounds, and he landed the equaliser in the 69th minute when Down coughed up possession. Then Darren Hughes stepped up with two late long-range scores and it looked as though extra-time was a certainty.

James McCartan admitted he was “miffed” Down had made so many mistakes and failed to hold on to their slender leader.

New Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke was also disappointed with his team’s performance but added: “The biggest thing that we will take out of it is that we didn’t play well and we still came out of it.”

Hughes’ dramatic heroics was a small measure of revenge for Monaghan, who blew a nine-point lead against Down on the same ground in last year’s Ulster semi-final and lost by a point.

Down must have been disappointed to only go in level at 0-8 to 1-5 at half-time as they had enjoyed most of the possession, but took a lot of wrong options in the final third and hit two terrible wides.

Five of Down’s forwards got on the scoresheet inside the opening 31 minutes.

In contrast, Monaghan were reliant on Conor McManus who smashed the ball into the roof of the net in the 27th minute for a Monaghan goal against the run of play.

Scorers for Down: D O’Hare 0-3 (3f), M Poland 0-4, C Harrison 0-2, K Quinn, A McConville, R Mallon 0-1 each.

Scorers for Monaghan: C McManus 1-7 (3f), D Hughes 0-2, O Duffy, D Clerkin, P Finlay (f) 0-1 each.

DOWN: M Cunningham; D McCartan, P Turley, R Boyle; D Rooney, A Carr, R Mallon; K King, K McKernan; D Turley, M Poland, K Quinn; D O’Hare, A McConville, C Harrison.

Subs: D Savage for McConville (42), C Laverty for D Turley (44), D McKibben for P Turley (50), C Gough for King (53), P McComiskey for O’Hare (60).

MONAGHAN: M Keogh; R McNally, D Wylie, O Coyle; K Duffy, D Hughes, K O’Connell; O Lennon, D Clerkin; K Hughes, P Donaghy, N McAdam; D Malone, C McManus, O Duffy.

Subs: F Kelly for Wylie (23), P Finlay for Clerkin (47), M McElroy for Coyle (51), G Doogan for Donaghy (68).

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).

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