DONEGAL RUE MISSED CHANCES

ULSTER CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL

DONEGAL RUE MISSED CHANCES
Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Donegal had an historic victory snatched from them in the dying seconds in Breffni Park on Saturday evening as Conor McManus gave Monaghan a second chance.

Donegal . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-11

Monaghan . . . . . . . . . 0-14

In a game that was ulta competitive, both on and off the field, there was little between them throughout. Monaghan held a three point lead at the start of the second half, while Donegal went two clear with six minutes of normal time left.

But it turned out that there was a surprisingly lengthy amount of added time - six minutes - which added to the drama and tension in the closing period. Even before the start, there was plenty to talk about as Joe McQuillan replaced the appointed referee, Ciaran Brannigan.

In the end, Monaghan were saved by three Conor McManus frees, two of them from outside the '45'. Donegal were left to rue many missed chances with Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty not fully on song.

But despite that, it was an entralling contest which was enjoyable to neutrals but not for the supporters of the participating counties.

Space was always at a premium with the sides deadlocked at 0-6 each at half-time. Donegal started well with Karl Lacey pointing after 11 seconds and Michael Murphy winning his own break on 10 minutes to swing over a second.

Another Murphy free didn't reflect Donegal's dominance early on before Monaghan got into the contest with Conor McManus and Conor McCarthy having them level by the 21st minute.

Two more McManus frees had Monaghan ahead but Donegal hit a purple patch before the break with Patrick McBrearty finding the range, two frees and one from play.

However, on the stroke of half-time McManus added another free, this one one of a few of the soft variety, to leave it all square.

OPENED UP

While the first half was extremely tight, the second half was more open. Michael Murphy, who looked he could open the Monaghan defence, won and pointed a free inside two minutes. But the third quarter was to be a frustrating one for the Glenswilly man, who just couldn't find the range with his place kicks, albeit most of them were from the 45m line or outside.

Owen Duffy broke through to fist Monaghan level, but Donegal had a glorious goal chance on 38 minutes Anthony Thompson sent young Ciaran Gillespie through on goal, but Monaghan 'keeper Rory Beggan advanced to block his effort at point blank range for a '45'.

Monaghan were almost in at the other end but Ryan McAnespie fumbled before Conor McManus and two magnificent Karl O'Connell points opened a three point gap.

Donegal should have been level when they created another goal chance with a move from deep but Patrick McBrearty blazed over from close range on 51 minutes.

Then they were reduced to 14 when Martin McElhinney was shown black and red (he was yellow carded in opening half) on 55 minutes. It seemed a harsh decision as he collided with a Monaghan player as they ran in opposite directions.

But, as happens, Donegal responded and the ball was worked to Odhran Mac Niallais, who fired low to the Monaghan net and a one point lead.

Conor McCarthy levelled and Monaghan lost Colin Walshe to a black card. Great work by the McHughs, Ryan and Eoin, led to points from McBrearty and Eoin to push Donegal two clear.

But a bit of indiscipline saw Conor McManus level with two frees. However with 74 minutes on the clock Eamon McGee, up at the other end, set up Christy Toye to fist what seemed to be a winner for Donegal.

But there was a final twist as a late tackle on a Monaghan player gave McManus the easy chance to force a replay.

Donegal: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Ciaran Gillespie, Eamon McGee; Ryan McHugh, Karl Lacey (0-1), Frank McGlynn; Rory Kavanagh, Odhran Mac Niallais (1-0); Anthony Thompson, Martin McElhinney, Eoin McHugh (0-1); Patrick McBrearty (0-5,3f), Michael Murphy (0-3,2f), Martin O'Reilly. Subs., Mark McHugh for McGlynn 64; Christy Toye (0-1) Kavanagh 65; Eoghan Ban Gallagher for O'Reilly 75.

Monaghan: Rory Beggan; Colin Walshe, Drew Wylie, Ryan Wylie; Fintan Kelly, Vinny Corey, Kieran Duffy; Karl O'Connell (0-2), Darren Hughes; Shane Carey (0-1), Owen Duffy (0-1), Ryan McAnespie; Conor McCarthy (0-2,1f), Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus (0-8,7f). Subs., Dessie Mone for D Wylie; Daniel McKenna for McCarthy, both 58; Conor Boyle for Walshe, bcard 61; Jack McCarron for Carey 64; Dick Clerkin for McAnespie 71.

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).