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Bitter rivals fired up to do battle again

Donegal 1-11 Monaghan 0-14

By Declan Bogue

Published 27/06/2016

Gripping stuff: Donegal and Monaghan players in a scuffle at Breffni Park
Gripping stuff: Donegal and Monaghan players in a scuffle at Breffni Park
Conor McManus tries to hold off Paddy McGrath

The final whistle went but the recriminations continued after Joe McQuillan punctuated the latest instalment of this spiteful conflict and summoned them to do it all over again next weekend, same place, same time.

Monaghan players and officials wanted to register their feelings to McQuillan, but a Donegal county board official attempted to 'shoo' them away.

For Donegal, their failings came with three Michael Murphy frees that sailed wide, and two that dropped short.

"I'd say pressure was a big part of it," said Donegal manager Rory Gallagher on those misses.

Monaghan also have their comforts. In the third quarter they had assumed total control of this game, that is until a superb Odhran MacNiallais goal drilled low past Rory Beggan.

But when MacNiallais' goal was examined by Peter Canavan in the Sky studios, he wasn't afraid to point out that the Gweedore man was ghosting into space with his marker Fintan Kelly for company, just as Ciaran Gillespie took Kelly out of the equation by dragging him to the ground. Unhindered as he received the ball, MacNiallais put it away.

As it turned out, Monaghan had to extricate themselves by scoring three of the last four points to give us another blood and guts Ulster encounter.

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke summed up the frantic closing phases, when a late tackle from Anthony Thompson resulted in the final free for McManus to float over and tie up matters.

"When you're two points down going into injury-time you always are on the back-foot but in fairness knowing the boys and having seen them before when we've been in them positions they never give in."

In keeping with the theme that nothing separates these two, it was all square at half-time on 0-6 each. Both slung runs of three consecutive points together. The usual match ups occurred, including the long-running saga of Michael Murphy and Vinny Corey. An incredible statistic, but only in this fourth meeting of the pair has Murphy registered a point from play.

When they were realistic All-Ireland contenders, their third-quarter performances were Donegal's hallmark. Monaghan reversed that. After a Murphy free gave Donegal the lead, Owen Duffy burned past Karl Lacey to fist over.

Donegal then spurned a goal chance. A series of intricate handpasses through the defence and debutant Ciaran Gillespie was in for goal until Rory Beggan came off his line to save.

McManus then came on a loop at the edge of an attack to boom over from almost under the main stand to rapturous cheers. A Murphy free that dropped short ended with a Karl O'Connell point from the counter attack and soon after, O'Connell had a second after a move that required composure.

MacNiallais' goal arrived on cue, shortly after Donegal were reduced to 14 men. Martin McElhinney barrelled into Drew Wylie off the ball with two knees raised. This time, the incident was just too close for McQuillan to miss and he correctly awarded a black card for a third-man tackle. As McElhinney had been booked in the first half, no replacement was permitted.

Colin Walshe was the next to see black for a foul on Ryan McHugh as Donegal took control. They stretched their lead out to two when Ryan set up cousin Eoin for a fast-break point.

From that point on the game itself became carnage. Play-acting, simulation, officials on both sides misbehaving and Donegal for a time playing with an extra man to the fury of the Monaghan sideline.

The final play came from a combination of O'Connell and McManus and the execution of the free was perfection.

We go again, Saturday, Kingspan Breffni Park, 7pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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