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Monaghan hold their nerve to seal last four spot

MONAGHAN 1-12 - DOWN 2-7

By Colm Shalvey

Monaghan came through a closely-contested Ulster Under-21 championship quarter-final against Down in Inniskeen last night.

Monaghan looked well placed to win with some degree of comfort when they led by five points early in the second half, with the wind behind them, but they were pegged back by a Down revival and it took a couple of late points to see the home side through to a local derby with Cavan in the last four.

Both teams lost full-backs to black cards in the first half, with Monaghan's Ryan Wylie followed by Down's Gerard McGovern.

Monaghan were first off the mark with a Thomas Kerr point, and although Down hit the front with a goal on the break by Michael Hughes, Monaghan hit straight back with Christopher McKenna finding the net.

Paudie McKenna and Fearghal McMahon pushed Monaghan further ahead, but their defence was again opened up for Ryan Johnston to fire home a low shot, which came in between two pointed frees by Darragh O'Hanlon.

Monaghan hit the last four points of the half, however, through a brace of frees each by Kerr and Christopher McKenna to lead by 1-8 to 2-2 at the interval.

Christopher McKenna (free) and McMahon got Monaghan off to a good start in the second half, but a fisted effort by substitute Conor McGrady ended 22 scoreless minutes for Down, who enjoyed a purple patch with scores by O'Hanlon (two), McGrady again and Barry O'Hagan to draw level.

Down were well on top at midfield at this stage and Monaghan had gone 20 minutes without scoring, but Kerr curled over a free from the left wing to regain the lead for the hosts.

A late pointed free by Christopher McKenna secured Monaghan's progression to the semi-finals, even though they somehow contrived to miss a golden chance of a goal at the death.

Monaghan: D Kirk; R Wylie, C Boyle, D Courtney; P Keenan, J McGuigan (Capt.), S Conlon; M Boyce, B Greenan; C Cromwell, C McKenna (1-4, 0-4f), T Kerr (0-4, 3f); M McGuirk, P McKenna (0-2), F McMahon (0-2).

Subs: J Murphy for Wylie (black card, 15), D Ward for McMahon (46), S Buckley for Boyce (51), R McEnaney for Conlon (52), D Freeman for McGuirk (57), F Malone for Courtney (61).

Down: S Harrison; D Branagan, G McGovern, A Doherty; M Hughes (1-0), C McCartan (Capt.), D O'Hanlon (0-4f); R Wells, J Barr; B O'Hagan (0-1), R Johnston (1-0), N McPolin; C Rice, S Dornan, C Gallagher.

Subs: A Morgan for McGovern (black card, 27), C McGrady (0-2) for Johnston (34), S Murray for O'Hagan (57), C Doran for McPolin (58), C Quinn for Rice (60).

Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).

Belfast Telegraph

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