Monaghan maintained their drive for promotion to Division One of the National Football League by digging deep into their reserves of stamina and resilience to fend off the feisty challenge of Armagh at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.
And while pleased that his side remains undefeated, Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney is taking considerable encouragement from the fact that his panel is rapidly acquiring the overall experience that could bolster their championship campaign.
“This was a game not far short of championship intensity, we made some substitutions that worked out well but we know that Armagh were weakened by the absence of a number of players,” stated McEnaney.
The omens did not look good, though, when Tommy Freeman was yellow-carded in the first minute by referee Syl Doyle.
And when Steven McDonnell, Ronan Clarke and skipper Ciaran McKeever applied their considerable experience to the proceedings, Armagh eased into an 0-8 to 0-7 lead at the break, McDonnell collecting three of their points while Paul Finlay and Rory Woods each had a brace for the visitors.
Even though Eoin Lennon’s aerial ability was pronounced in
the central area, Monaghan still found themselves 0-12 to 0-9 in arrears by the 49th minute, McKeever and McDonnell again pilfering points with Paul Finlay pocketing his third score for the Farney county.
But a minute later the wheels came off the Armagh wagon when McKeever received a yellow card with Finian Moriaty sin-binned shortly afterwards.
And with Martin O’Rourke and Brian Mallon subsequently withdrawn because of injury, Armagh’s cutting edge was finally blunted, particularly by impressive Monaghan substitute Raymond Ronaghan.
It was his clinically-taken 52nd minute goal that effectively tipped the scales in his side’s favour and when the majestic Lennon and Ronaghan himself flighted over late points, Seamus McEnaney’s men enhanced their unblemished record in the competition.
ARMAGH: P Rodgers; A Mallon, V Martin, F Moriarty; C McKeever, T McClelland, B Shannon; J Lavery, C Vernon; M O’Rourke, B Mallon, R Henderson; K O’Rourke, R Clarke, S McDonnell. Substitutes: A O’Rourke for Martin (half-time), Micheal O’Rourke for B Mallon (50 mins), J Feeney for Henderson (64 mins), M Mackin for Martin O’Rourke (68 mins). Yellow card substitutions: P Duffy for McKeever (50 mins), C Rafferty for Moriarty (54 mins).
MONAGHAN: P McBennett; D Mone, V Corey, D McArdle; C McManus, G McEnaney, D Hughes; D Clerkin, E Lennon; S Gollogly, P Finlay, D Freeman; M Downey, R Woods, T Freeman. Substitutes: G McQuaid for Clerkin (42 mins), R Ronaghan for D Freeman (42), P McGuigan for McEnaney (49), S McAleer for Hanratty (66 mins). Yellow card substitution: C Hanratty for T Freeman (1 min).
Referee: Syl Doyle (Wexford).