Melee mars Monaghan-Kildare clash

Allianz Football League Division 2: Monaghan 0-17 Kildare 0-12

Allianz Football League Division 2: Monaghan 0-17 Kildare 0-12

The football on offer in Clones was overshadowed by a mass scuffle before half-time as Monaghan opened their win account in Division 2.

There were ugly scenes as players and team officials got involved with pushing and shoving and punches thrown, with the row continuing into the tunnel.

Referee Joe McQuillan consulted with his umpires before brandishing a red card to Kildare defender Brian Flanagan ahead of the start of the second half, while his team-mate Padraig O'Neill and Monaghan duo Dick Clerkin and Dessie Mone both received yellows.

The best of the football was played by the home side with chief scorer Paul Finlay, who had a poor outing against Meath last weekend, and captain Darren Hughes leading the charge as they built a 0-9 to 0-6 half-time lead.

Mikey Conway and Eoghan O'Flaherty kicked some fine scores for the Lilywhites, but they struggled to keep in touch when hitting seven second half wides.

With both sides having lost their Allianz Football League openers, this was a crucial clash and the crisp, windless conditions at St. Tiernach's Park gave hope for quite a contest.

David Hughes and Matthew McKenna (0-2) shot the Farney men into an early 0-3 to 0-0 lead, underlining their side's eagerness to bounce back from that disappointing display against Meath.

Kildare, wearing dark green, answered back with well-struck frees from Conway and O'Flaherty. Monaghan's improved distribution was a key factor in their strong opening, a neat spread of foot passes creating scoring opportunities for Finlay and Clerkin to convert and make it 0-5 to 0-2.

There were precious few errors from both sides. Indeed, there was only one wide registered by the time Eamonn McEneaney's men opened up a 0-7 to 0-4 advantage following a free from Finlay and a long range effort from Dermot Malone.

Eamonn Callaghan got on the scoresheet to support free-taker O'Flaherty who landed three placed balls in the opening half. As the interval approached, Johnny Doyle was introduced by Kieran McGeeney but the visitors struggled to get him into the game.

Finlay, with one superb strike on the turn, was the leading light in front of the posts as Monaghan maintained a three-point buffer before the tension boiled over.

To some observers, the melee which ensued - it was broken up initially and then continued after the half-time whistle - could be described as 'handbags'. But to others, it was of a more serious nature and something which has become far too commonplace in GAA circles.

When play resumed in the second half, Monaghan were still in the ascendancy. Benefiting from a consistent supply of ball, their forwards kicked some excellent points from distance. Hughes and Finlay, who soon took his tally to 0-7, extended the lead to 0-14 to 0-9 by the 52nd minute.

Conway left-footed a rousing score to close the gap back to four points, but the Kildare front men were beginning to get desperate and take the wrong option. Shooting from difficult angles, they kicked some poor wides as a second successive league defeat loomed.

That was confirmed for Kieran McGeeney's side when Kieran Hughes fisted over and then teed up Eoin Duffy for a point which went over off a post.

James Turley confidently hit Monaghan's 17th of the afternoon, and a late spurt from the Lilywhites produced final scores from Callaghan and O'Flaherty but not the goal that they craved.

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