Monaghan 0-13 Donegal 0-07
Narcissus’ reflection was his demise and so it came to pass that Donegal’s mirror image proved their downfall.
Funnily, Jim McGuinness had warned a couple of weeks back that imitators would find difficulty in matching Donegal, given this is the third year of fine-tuning their system.
If Monaghan heard his warning, they didn’t heed it, for in front of 31,912 supporters they replicated all that is honourable and relentless about Donegal’s style to win their first Anglo-Celt Cup in 25 years.
“We knew they had weaknesses,” stated a delighted Dick Clerkin afterwards. “We knew that they were uncomfortable playing against their own system.”
Naturally, much of the attention will surround the All-Ireland champions and how the wheels came off their chariot that we had expected would pound its way to a third consecutive Ulster title.
But Monaghan’s work ethic was superior and their hunger clearly deeper as they harangued and harassed Donegal into a defeat that was all but confirmed 10 minutes before David Coldrick’s last thrill of the whistle.
Their stealing of the blueprints will surely inspire more counties outside Division 1 to follow suit, which is slightly worrying as it doesn’t say much for original thought.
That said, their discipline was of the highest order and it was only towards the end that it began to falter, with Colm McFadden firing over three in the last 20 minutes.
But was this the real Donegal? Losing Mark McHugh to concussion in the 10th minute robbed them of their link man while Karl Lacey looked nothing like the player that was crowned the best by his peers in 2012. He was clearly unfit but then McFadden and Michael Murphy also looked out of sorts although the exceptional marking jobs by Drew Wylie and Vincent Corey on them played no small part in their subdued afternoons.
Donegal accrued 11 wides and McFadden, revered for his accuracy over the previous two seasons, contributed three of them.
Paddy McBrearty, so good against Tyrone back in May, was made look ordinary and he fired a hat-trick of wides as well.
More evidence of a system malfunction from the usually uber-efficient Donegal came in injury-time of the first half when Rory Kavanagh and Paul Durcan went for the same ball.
What we had there was a lack of communication but it was repeated throughout the field, especially in midfield when, prior to Neil Gallagher’s introduction, Owen Lennon was the dominant figure. Darren Hughes alongside him was breaking quality ball to team-mates and that purple area was seen on the scoreboard after seven minutes when Monaghan kicked four points.
Donegal had plenty of the ball but found themselves hounded each time they threatened an attack. When they did find a way through in the 21st minute, Kavanagh’s effort was disallowed after consultation between Coldrick and one of his linesmen.
It wasn’t until the 32nd minute that they registered a score, when a contentious free was awarded for a foul on Gallagher and was then brought in for McFadden to point. By that time, though, Monaghan had notched a fifth when Paul Finlay was fouled and Conor McManus converted.
Gallagher’s presence in midfield offered something to Donegal but he was spoiling ball more than retrieving it while the forwards continued to run into cul de sacs created by the well-drilled Monaghan defence.
A Frank McGlynn point from play, just one of three for his team in the entire game and none coming from the starting forwards, appeared to give Donegal a cause in injury-time going into the break, trailing 0-5 to 0-2.
But Donegal’s hand was all but played by that stage when McGuinness made his fourth substitute, Ryan McHugh coming on for an earlier replacement David Walsh. The younger McHugh brother had the gumption to fire over a kick when his older team-mates looked frigid. But it was a small respite in a splendid period of finishing by Kieran Hughes, his first point coming after McHugh had to clear the ball from close to the goal-line.
Hughes then stuck two over in as many minutes, the first being assisted by the industrious Dessie Mone and the second one a comfortable score after leaving Eamonn McGee in his tracks.
A McFadden free followed as did two Donegal goal chances, McGlynn flicking a Ryan Bradley ball in wide and Murphy’s off-balance stab at a shot at goal also going past the end-line.
What was so key to Monaghan’s victory was their ability to match fire with fire on the scoreboard as much as general play. That McFadden free was ruled out by a fine Mone strike and a later one by McFadden was matched by a McManus free that had Monaghan supporters believing it was their day.
Following a Kavanagh score was a Christopher McGuinness one and McFadden’s fourth free was exchanged with a Rory Beggan’s 45 as Donegal began to realise the game was up.
Appropriately, one of the older soldiers in Tommy Freeman rounded off the scoring, the last note in possibly the greatest cover version ever seen in Gaelic football, never mind the Ulster brand.
Scorers for Monaghan: C McManus (frees), K Hughes (0-3 each), R Beggan (0-2, one free, one 45), D Hughes, P Donaghy, D Mone, C McGuinness, T Freeman (0-1 each).
Scorers for Donegal: C McFadden (0-4, frees); F McGlynn, R McHugh, R Kavanagh (0-1 each).
MONAGHAN: R Beggan; C Walshe, V Corey, D Wylie; D Mone, N McAdam, K Duffy; O Lennon, D Hughes; D Malone, S Gollogly, P Finlay; P Donaghy, K Hughes, C McManus.
Subs for Monaghan: G Doogan for S Gollogly (blood 11-full-time), D Clerkin for G Doogan (52), C McGuinness for D Malone (65), T Freeman for C McManus (70+2).
DONEGAL: P Durcan; N McGee, E McGee, P McGrath; F McGlynn, K Lacey, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, R Bradley; M McHugh, L McLoone, M O’Reilly; C McFadden, M Murphy, P McBrearty.
Subs for Donegal: David Walsh for M McHugh (inj 10), N Gallagher for M O’Reilly (24), R Wherity for L McLoone (32), R McHugh for David Walsh (ht), M McElhinney for R Bradley (65).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved