Monaghan 1-10 Donegal 1-9: The roar from the Monaghan support following Colin Walshe’s 73rd-minute winner against Donegal in Castleblayney yesterday was so loud it could probably be heard at Austin Stack Park in Tralee.
A point from the most unlikely source sealed a most unlikely win for the Ulster champions, who came from seven points down to clinch victory in the most dramatic of fashion.
While some were working out the mathematics of it all, the celebrations that greeted corner-back Walshe’s winner left little doubt. Monaghan, by the skin of their teeth, had survived and Cork slipped through the trapdoor into Division 2.
“When Colin put the ball over the bar we were aware of the permutations,” a beaming Malachy O’Rourke, the Monaghan manager, said afterwards. “A draw was no good to us and we knew Cork had lost so a one-point win would do us. No better man than Walshie to finish it off.”
O’Rourke’s side had been brave and although an oversimplification maybe, perhaps it came down to the fact their needs were greater than Donegal’s wants.
For Rory Gallagher’s side, who finished on six points - the same as relegated Cork - it was something of a booby-prized afternoon. They’ll be playing seven-from-seven Dublin at Croke Park next Sunday afternoon having lost four on the bounce.
“I said after the first three games we have not done a lot of work given the age profile of the players,” Gallagher said afterwards. “I think that is definitely a factor but I wouldn’t say it is the only factor that we have tired in the last 10 or 15 minutes.
“Monaghan were up for the game and in front of their own supporters and you could hear the roar going up every time they scored or turned over the possession. We are just disappointed that we did not produce the level of performance in the second half after what I thought was an excellent first half performance.”
Donegal were on easy-street to begin with. They bossed the ball and bossed Monaghan, going 1-4 to 0-0 in front.
Their goal came on 20 minutes through a belter from Martin McElhinney, who played a one-two with Leo McLoone before shooting past Rory Beggan in the Monaghan goal.
It’s often been said that you’re at your most vulnerable when you’ve just scored and that was the case again yesterday. Monaghan’s response, with a goal just a minute later through Daniel McKenna, was emphatic.
McKenna showed composure, at the second time of asking, to tuck the ball past Mark Anthony McGinley following a daring break with Dermot Malone and Neil McAdam as its architects.
Monaghan were three points down - 1-7 to 1-4 - at half-time and 20 minutes into the second half were still at that state of arrears.
Anthony Thompson’s long-range point on 55 minutes gave an indication that Donegal were capable of holding their hosts at arm’s length. But the visitors would not score again.
Conor McManus, typically, was keeping Monaghan in touch and when he scored his sixth point - his fifth from a free - just five minutes from time, it was level at 1-9 apiece.
There was almost a tragicomic conclusion when a vast chunk of the home support roared at what they thought was a Kieran Hughes winner, only for the umpire to signal wide.
However, that cheer would come again, in the third of five minutes of injury-time when Washe fired over what proved to be Monaghan’s winner.
“As the game wore on we got stronger and stronger and we started to win more individual battles around the field and we got more of a foothold around the middle,” O’Rourke added.
Scorers for Monaghan:
C McManus (0-6, 5 frees); D McKenna (1-1); C Walshe, D Hughes, R McAnespie (0-1 each)
Scorers for Donegal:
M McElhinney (1-0); M Murphy (0-3, 2 frees, 1 ‘45’); P McBrearty (0-2, 0-1 free); R McHugh, A Thompson, O Mac Niallais, E McHugh (0-1 each)
R Beggan; C Walshe, D Wylie, R Wylie; D Mone, F Kelly, K O’Connell; N McAdam, V Corey; D Hughes, D Malone, K Hughes; R McAnespie, D McKenna, C McManus
T Kerr for Mone (48); O Duffy for Malone (53); C McCarthy for McKenna (60);
MA McGinley; P McGrath, N McGee, H McFadden; R McHugh, A Thompson, F McGlynn; M Murphy, O Mac Niallais; R Kavanagh, L McLoone, M O’Reilly; P McBrearty, M McElhinney, E McHugh
C McFadden for E McHugh (53); E McGee for O’Reilly (60); C Toye for McLoone (64); S McBrearty for McElhinney (66); E Doherty for N McGee (black card, 69); M McHugh for H McFadden (black card, 74).
Rory Hickey (Clare).
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