By Mike Fitzpatrick
Donegal 1-10, Monaghan 1-9
This senior football Div. I tie had long been awaited. The clash pitted Monaghan, the nearly men who won so many hearts at Gaelic Park last year with their combative displays, versus Donegal, last year’s favorites for the title, and the side which is truly gunning for revenge over Kerry, the side who pipped them for the championship last season.
It was always going to be a tough encounter. Monaghan is renowned for its overwhelming team spirit, and it’s obvious that the 15 lads on display here would do anything to help their teammates and their county.
Donegal is a tough side to beat, and once more this year, it will be amongst the favorites for the title, despite having lost its first game versus Tyrone a few weeks back.
The game itself, as the scoreline suggests, was a close affair throughout, with neither side able to force it’s way in front, and never more than a point separating the Ulster rivals.
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There’s certainly no love lost between the sides, and this became increasingly obvious as the game wore on, with a number of nasty incidents scattered throughout the tie.
Much of the emphasis for Monaghan’s hopes this season has been, perhaps a little unfairly, placed upon the shoulders of former Tyrone forward and last season’s top scorer, Michael Slowey. Slowey lived up to his reputation as one of New York’s best with a number of early points. His accuracy from free kicks will prove to be crucial to Monaghan this year. He was however, involved in a tremendously important turning point in the game. Having tussled with Donegal’s Gary Dowd throughout the tie, Slowey was sent off for a second bookable offence on the Donegal player. His free-taking was missed immediately, and late dead ball efforts from Monaghan that may have been converted by the Clones man failed to register on the scoreboard.
Each side inched in front at different stages of the game, with Paul McEntee’s opportunist effort under the bar giving Monaghan a real chance at clinching something from the tie.
Donegal’s Niall McCreedy hit one back for Donegal, and from there on, it was anyone’s game.
A few frees from Edmund Cleary, and a trio of points each from Kieran O’Hare and John Paul Boyle edged Donegal in front.
Never more than a point behind due to Slowey’s efforts, and a double from Paul O’Connor, Monaghan will feel downhearted after this tie. Yet another game lost by a single point by the Monaghan side. They will face their next opponents without the suspended Slowey, though with forwards such as Eddie Murphy and Sean Carbin on their books, perhaps they’ll turn the corner and start to collect the points.
Donegal march on, and with their first victory out of the way, will surely be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
Donegal: Eunan Doherty, Paddy McConaghy, Owen Cummins, Mark McClafferty, Donal Breslin (0-1), Adrian McClafferty, Gerry Kelly, Gary Dowd, Mickey Moran, Niall McCreedy (1-0), John Paul Boyle (0-3), Pierce Coyle , Edmund Cleary (0-3), Kieran O’Hare (0-3), Kieran Keaveney. Sub: Liam Gallagher.
Monaghan: David Ballantine, Barry Duggan, Mickey Treanor, Gary Birdy, Paul Rush, Bernard Treanor, Garret Duffy, Dan Scott, Hughie O’Sullivan, Pogo McEntee, Paul O’Connor (0-2), Eddie Murphy (0-1), Paul McEntee (1-1), Sean Carbin, Michael Slowey (0-5), Subs: Bonnie Duffy, Louis Breslin.
Man of the match: Mickey Moran (Donegal).