Monaghan 2-24 Louth 1-15
Monaghan claimed their second Division 2 triumph in Clones after Louth’s Declan Byrne was sent-off with 20 minutes remaining.
Centre-back Byrne picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Tommy Freeman and the hosts dominated after that, with impressive points from Paul Finlay (0-5) and Eoin Duffy (0-4).
Chris McGuinness’ 27th-minute goal had the Farney men 1-10 to 0-10 ahead at the break.
Their captain Darren Hughes was also in goal-scoring action, deflecting home an own goal but then converting a late penalty.
Monaghan were back in the welcoming surrounds of St. Tiernach’s Park after their successful appeal to the Disputes Resolution Authority overturned the decision of the Central Hearings Committee to move this game to Drogheda.
With home advantage and a reinforced attack, Monaghan were quickly out of the traps and Freeman, making his first start of the campaign, claimed their opening point.
It was tit-for-tat in the first ten minutes, Louth nipping 0-4 to 0-3 ahead thanks to points from Mark Brennan, Darren Clark, Byrne and Andy McDonnell.
Freeman slotted over off both feet as the sides went point for point, until McGuinness latched onto a through ball from Finlay to slide his goal past Louth stopper Neil Gallagher.
Boosted by the goal, McGuinness and Eoin Duffy (free) tagged on subsequent points to make it 1-09 to 0-07, but long range efforts from substitute Adrian Reid and Brian Donnelly (free) whittled Monaghan’s lead down to 1-10 to 0-10 by half-time.
Freeman opened the scoring in the second half, however Monaghan were rocked back on their heels when their skipper Hughes unintentionally knocked a long delivery towards the square into his own net.
Substitute Jim McEneaney and Ronan Carroll had Louth leading, only for the momentum to swing back in the hosts’ favour when Byrne got his marching orders in the 50th minute.
Duffy and Finlay swiftly pointed Eamonn McEneaney’s men level at 1-14 apiece and there was only one team in it in the final 20 minutes.
After Carroll kicked Louth’s final point to square things up again, it was all Monaghan. McGuinness, Finlay, Stephen Gollogly, Dick Clerkin and substitute Ciaran Hanratty hammered over a succession of points to put the result beyond any doubt.
The icing on the cake came when Hanratty was pulled down for a penalty by Louth corner back Jamie Carr, who was promptly shown his second yellow card.
Hughes stepped up to plant the penalty home and make up for his earlier error in gifting Louth their only goal of the game.
MONAGHAN: M Keogh; D Mone, V Corey, C Walshe; D Malone, Darren Hughes (1-0, 1-0 pen), D Morgan; J Turley (0-2), D Clerkin (0-2); K Hughes, P Finlay (0-5, 0-3f), O Lennon (0-2); T Freeman (0-3), C McGuinness (1-3), E Duffy (0-4, 0-4f).
Subs used: S Gollogly (0-2) for K Hughes (15-21 mins, blood sub; 24), C Hanratty (0-1) for Freeman (60), G McQuaid for Morgan (64), N McAdam for Lennon (67), S Smyth for Finlay (70).
LOUTH: N Gallagher; J Carr, D Finnegan, P Rath; G Hoey, D Byrne (0-1), L Shevlin; R Carroll (0-2), B Donnelly (0-1, 0-1f); D Crilly, A McDonnell (0-1), C Rafferty; D Maguire (0-2), M Brennan (0-1), D Clarke (0-4, 0-1f, 0-1 ’45').
Subs used: A Reid (0-1) for McDonnell (21 mins), J McEneaney (0-2) for Rafferty (34), B White for Donnelly (49), S Fitzpatrick for Greene (62).
Referee: Derek Fahy (Longford).