Monaghan 0-14 Armagh 0-14
By Francis Mooney
Super-cool substitute Rory Grugan rescued Armagh with a free deep into stoppage time, earning a replay for his side and another chance to shock Ulster champions Monaghan.
The Anglo-Celt Cup holders appeared to be in control in a thrilling semi-final at St Tiernach’s Park, three points ahead with just over two minutes to play, but the Orchard men refused to recognise defeat and fought back for a deserved draw.
The loss of ace attacker Conor McManus to a controversial black card call eight minutes into the second half was a huge blow to Monaghan, and while they did pick themselves up to go ahead, the absence of the Clontribret man may have cost them another appearance in the provincial final.
Jamie Clarke’s early score raised the spirits of an Armagh side forced to field without three key players, whose final appeal over a one-match ban had failed.
But it was Monaghan who soon got to the pace of the game, goalkeeper Rory Beggan drilling a 45 metre free between the posts.
Jack McCarron also hit the target from a placed ball, but Clarke, despite the attentions of marker Colin Walshe, was able to create the space and the pass for Stefan Campbell to bring the sides level.
Farney ‘keeper Beggan was unflappable when it came to place kicking from distance, nailing another mighty effort, and when Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus, with a delightful effort, hit the target, the provincial champions leed by 0-5 to 0-3.
Wing back Mark Shields kept Armagh in the hunt by finishing accurately from Ciaran McKeever’s surging run.
Armagh lost attacker Kyle Carragher to a black card, but they finished the half strongly with the last three points, to go in level at the break.
Carragher’s replacement, Tony Kernan had an immediate impact, slotting over a free and sending Aidan Forker in on goal, but Beggan came off his line to keep out the shot.
It was Campbell who rounded off a sweeping move to bring the sides level on 0-6 each at the break.
Clarke and McManus traded scores early in the second half, and with Dick Clerkin raising his game around the middle, Monaghan began to squeeze their opponents.
Clerkin sent substitute Stephen Gollogly in for a point, but they suffered a huge blow when captain and top attacker Conor McManus saw his game ended by a black card for a 43rd minute challenge on Finian Moriarty.
The sides traded point for point, with Dick Clerkin, Stephen Gollogly on target for Monaghan, with Kevin Dyas, a creative influence all evening, showing his finishing skills as well, and Stefan Forker, on as a sub for his brother, bringing the sides level for the sixth time.
But Clerkin and Darren Hughes stamped their authority on the midfield battle, driving their side forward, and they appeared to have seen off the Armagh challenge when they hit three points on the spin to go ahead six minutes from the end.
Kieran Hughes, and Beggan again, with his fifth, made it 0-14 to 0-11, and Monaghan fans were singing in the sunshine at St Tiernach’s Park.
However, Armagh had their own inspirational leaders in Ciaran McKeever and Charlie Vernon, and they deservedly got their reward.
Clarke angled over another delightful score, Stefan Campbell claimed his third, and it was Grugan who won and converted the stoppage time free that earned the Orchard a rematch, for which they will have banned trio Andy Mallon, Brendan Donaghy and Kieran Toner back in the side.
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-5, 5f), K Duffy, D Wylie, C Walshe, D Mone, V Corey, F Kelly, D Clerkin (0-1), D Hughes, R Wylie, J McCarron (0-1, f), P Donaghy, D Malone, K Hughes (0-2), C McManus (0-2, 1f).
Subs: S Gollogly (0-2, 1f) for McCarron, C McGuinness (0-1) for McManus (BC), P McKenna for Donaghy, P Finlay for R Wylie, K O’Connell for Kelly
Armagh: P McEvoy, J Morgan, C Vernon, F Moriarty, M Shields (0-1), C McKeever, A Kernan, E Rafferty A Findon, E McVerry, K Dyas (0-1), A Forker (0-1), K Carragher, S Campbell (0-3), J Clarke (0-3).
Subs: T Kernan (0-3, 2f) for Carragher (BC), S Harold for E Campbell, S Forker (0-1) for A Forker, R Grugan (0-1, f) for McVerry, M Murray for Moriarty
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).