By Peter Nolan
Monaghan and Offaly hooked up in a much-anticipated Senior B encounter and it was Monaghan who came out on top Sunday at Gaelic Park. Despite playing a man down for the final 40 minutes, Monaghan kept their perfect record, improving to 3-0.
Monaghan were first on the score sheet, at the 1 minute mark from a Mickey Slowey free. Slowey added another free before Offaly could respond with 0-2 from center forward Michael Higgins.
Slowey hit a long free to retake the advantage for Monaghan, but the New York county man was getting little change in his battle with Offaly fullback Sean Nolan. In fact real estate was very valuable all over the Gaelic Park pitch as the players fought for every blade of grass.
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Offaly gained a slight lead on points from Brendan Moran, Mark O’Sullivan, and Garreth Reilly. John Michael McDonald countered for Monaghan and Offaly led 0-5 to 0-4 when the first pivotal moment of the match occurred. In an off-the-ball incident Offaly corner forward Brendan Moran was laid out and eventually stretchered off the field. After consulting with his officials, referee Tom Fahey didn’t hesitate in showing the red card to Monaghan’s Brian McKenna.
Now Offaly led by 0-1 and had a man advantage for the final 40 minutes. Monaghan would have seemed to be in trouble, but Offaly failed to score in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Monaghan leveled with a Slowey point, and the halftime score was set at 0-5 to 0-5.
Monaghan came out flying from the opening throw-in. Hughie O’Sullivan and Slowey combined to send John Lydon in alone on Offaly keeper Kieran Farrelly and Lydon’s rocket left Farrelly with no chance. Tight marking and some very poor marksmanship, particularly from Offaly, kept scores at a premium.
Two more Slowey frees extended the Ulster side’s lead to 1-7 to 0-5 and Offaly looked like they might fail to score in the second half. Finally after 23 minutes, Higgins ended the drought. Higgins added another but that was it. For Monaghan had a hard fought victory, for Offaly who fall to 1-1-1, a terrible defeat.
Man of the Match: John Lydon.
Monaghan: Shane Duffy, Garreth Darcy, Paul Rush, Gary Birdy, Brian McKenna, Bernard Traynor, Louis Breslin, John Lydon (1-0), Martin Slowey, Darren Quinn, John Michael McDonald (0-1), Shane Convey, Shane Ruttledge, Michael Slowey (0-6, 5 frees), Mark Dobbin. Subs: Hughie O’Sullivan, Kieran O’Reilly, Paul Flynn.
Offaly: Kieran Farrelly, Mark Dolan, Sean Nolan, Eddie Flynn, Thady Mannering, Enda Condren, Garreth Reilly (0-1), James Mitchell, Chris Willis, Mark O’Sullivan (0-1), Michael Higgins (0-4), Dan Sheehan, Brendan Moran (0-1, free), Dan Leavy, Nigel Carney. Subs: Mike Dolan, Noel Coghlan.