Monaghan rally to deny valiant Down in close match
Monaghan 0-13 Down 0-11
Monaghan held on to make it two wins from two in Allianz Football League Division One in a competitive encounter against Down in Clones yesterday.
After a slow start, Monaghan burst into life with six points between the 17th and 24th minutes to take charge, but despite enjoying the lion's share of possession, they couldn't put the game beyond the reach of a spirited Down side.
Eamonn Burns' men forced their way into contention in the closing stages, but fell just short as they lost a second all-Ulster clash in just over a week.
Monaghan's twin threat up front of Conor McManus and Darren Hughes were held to just a single point from play between them, but the Ulster champions had nine scorers as they ground out another important result.
Darragh O'Hanlon and Connaire Harrison led the way for the Mournemen, whose list of absentees included suspended sharpshooter Dónal O'Hare.
Down started brightly with points by Harrison (free) and O'Hanlon, but Owen Duffy and Shane Carey brought Monaghan level.
A brace from Harrison, either side of a point from his colleague in the full-forward line Shay McArdle, moved Down into a three-point lead, but Monaghan responded with six in the space of eight minutes.
A McManus free started that run and after Ryan McAnespie had added one from play, Monaghan's All-Star forward lobbed a shot just over the bar with Down goalkeeper Stephen Kane caught in possession well off his line.
Thomas Kerr, Dermot Malone and Duffy all added fine scores to continue the hosts' purple patch and even though McArdle got the last point of the first-half, Monaghan still changed ends leading by 0-9 to 0-6.
The start of the second-half was disrupted by an injury to Down centre-forward Mark Poland, who had to be replaced, with a four-minute delay contributing to over seven minutes being added at the end.
Monaghan threatened to find the net a couple of times, including when McManus had a shot deflected out for a 45 and when McAnespie fired wide.
That failure to make their dominance count on the scoreboard threatened to come back to haunt Monaghan in the closing stages, although points from Carey and McAnespie moved them five clear.
An O'Hanlon free ended 22 scoreless minutes for Down, but a Rory Beggan 45 kept Monaghan in command. Down rallied in the closing stages through points from O'Hanlon and substitutes Packie Downey and Mark McKay - the latter a goal attempt that went over via the crossbar - but Daniel McKenna again made an impact off the bench for Monaghan with a score.
A Harrison free brought Down to within two, but Monaghan held on to move onto four points ahead of the three-week break. These teams will meet again in June in the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-finals.
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-1, '45); C Boyle, D Wylie, K Duffy; R McAnespie (0-2), C Walshe, K O'Connell; N McAdam, F Kelly (0-1); S Carey (0-2), D Malone (0-1), T Kerr (0-1); O Duffy (0-2), D Hughes, C McManus (Capt., 0-2, 1f). Subs: R Wylie for Boyle (48), K Hughes for O'Connell, D McKenna (0-1) for O Duffy (both 54), S Gollogly for Malone (65), D Mone for Kelly (73).
Down: S Kane; G McGovern, C McGovern, M Magee; D O'Hanlon (0-3, 1f), R Boyle, M Hughes; P Turley, H Brown; K McKernan (Capt.), M Poland, J Murphy; A Carr, C Harrison (0-4, 3f), S McArdle (0-2). Subs: S Dornan for Poland (inj., 39), P Downey (0-1) for McArdle, L Howard for Hughes (both 54), R Mallon for Murphy (63), M McKay (0-1) for Turley (65).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath)