THE Allianz Football League Division 2 promotion race has just got interesting. Monaghan’s merited success over Cork ensures it will be a pivotal promotion day in the last round in two weeks time.
The Ulster men’s hopes of graduating to the top level next season were re-ignited here, while Cork now encounter a phase of uncertainty after a spring of good times until now.
Cork’s chaotic injury list is starting to have ruinous consequences. A hamstring epidemic swept through the squad before yesterday, claiming Anthony Lynch, Graham Canty and Pearse O’Neill as victims. Manager Conor Counihan was loathe to use that as the case for defence afterwards but his team looked, questionable puns aside, hamstrung as a result. The absence of Canty and O’Neill’s imposing presence around the middle was significant, while the defensive sweeping of Lynch was also missed.
For all that Monaghan were perfectly entitled to the two points on offer, playing with greater intensity and composing killer scoring bursts that drained the oxygen from Cork’s challenge. The terrain under their squad has trembled of late, losing badly to Kildare and having to scramble for a draw against Meath. Rumblings of discontent have become more audible, so this win brought back a familiar pep in the step of Seamus McEnaney.
“It was very important that we got a really good performance. We picked it up a lot with our work rate improved a considerable amount. Our lads deserve credit for that. Cork are a very big team, but we must take into consideration that they were short some of their better players. So we won’t be getting carried away with it.”
Conor Counihan faced a post-match inquisition into a defeat for a first time in 2009.
“It’s very disappointing. We were on top early on but didn’t take our scoring opportunities. We got before half-time but their second goal in the second-half killed us off. That was the real turning point. Most of the intensity in the game came from them and for some reason we didn’t rise to that. We’re not going to make excuses now about the injuries. When you win you believe you have all the answers but you never do, so in that sense a defeat will make us look at ourselves and where we stand.”
The outcome of the match largely hinged on a lightning string of scores from Monaghan before half-time. Cork had begun the match brightly, coping well with the dreary conditions and the voluble home support. The moved the ball methodically and patiently up the pitch, and Paul O’Flynn and Nicholas Murphy picked off nice early scores. By the 21st minute Cork were edging it 0-4 to 0-3, but then Monaghan cranked up the gears.
Three minutes later Tommy Freeman, who was largely well policed by Ray Carey, gathered a Gary McQuaid pass before slipping through and despatching a beautiful shot to the net. After that the points flowed for Monaghan, Paul Finlay with a trio, Owen Lennon and McQuaid shunting them into a 1-8 to 0-4 lead. Yet despite that barrage of blows, Cork got a considerable fillip on the stroke of the interval when Paul Kerrigan’s pass found Daniel Goulding unperturbed near goal and he blasted to the net.
That four-point deficit looked manageable from Cork’s viewpoint and in the opening stages of the second-half they succeeded in breaking the stranglehold of Lennon and Dick Clerkin around the midfield. Rory Woods clipped over for Monaghan early on but then sublime scores from Kerrigan, John Hayes and Goulding had Cork only three adrift.
But that was as close as Cork came and their head of steam soon waned. Finlay, who had a magical game conducting matters from centre-forward, fired over a brace of points before the crucial second Monaghan goal arrived in the 57th minute. Alan Quirke did brilliantly to deny Tommy Freeman’s initial shot yet the rebound fell kindly for Raymond Ronaghan to lash home.
The match petered out to its conclusion from there. Cork tried to force a route back into contention but their passing was sloppy and they suffered from a lack of thrust up front, with John Paul Mone and McQuaid impressing amongst the Monaghan backs. Aisake Ó’hAilpín saw action for the first time in a Cork senior shirt late on coming in at full-forward, but he couldn’t help stem the tide and Monaghan wound up with a seven-point winning advantage.
Scorers for Monaghan: P Finlay 0-6 (0-4f, 0-1 ‘45), T Freeman 1-1, R Ronaghan 1-0, S Gollogly, D Hughes, O Lennon, G McQuaid, R Woods, P McGuigan 0-1 each.
Cork: D Goulding 1-2 (0-2f), D O’Connor 0-2 (0-2f), P O’Flynn, N Murphy, P Kerrigan, J Hayes, J Masters 0-1 each.
MONAGHAN: S Duffy; D Mone, JP Mone, V Corey; D Freeman, G McQuaid, D Hughes; D Clerkin, O Lennon; C McManus, P Finlay, S Gollogly; M Downey, R Woods, T Freeman.
Subs: R Ronaghan for McManus (25), P McGuigan for Downey (half-time), D McArdle for D Mone (47), S McAleer for Clerkin (yellow) (53), G McEnaney for Hughes (61), K Hughes for Woods (70).
CORK: A Quirke; R Carey, N O’Donovan, K O’Connor; N O’Leary, G Spillane, M Shields; A O’Connor, N Murphy; C McCarthy, F Goold, P O’Flynn; D Goulding, D O’Connor, P Kerrigan.
Subs: J Hayes for Flynn (inj) (25), A O’Sullivan for A O’Connor (yellow) (34), J Masters for Goold (half-time), A Ó hAilpín for McCarthy (57), P Kissane for O’Donovan (62), B Crowley for K O’Connor (64)
Referee: M Sludden (Tyrone)
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