Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Monaghan’s ruthless streak is the difference

It was men against boys. This was one time I hoped my prediction would not come true!

Armagh are a team on the road of transition and Monaghan, on the other hand, are at the end of that particular journey.

They are a team filled with big strong, committed and experienced players who are on a mission to win the Anglo Celt and go beyond.

The entrance of Rory Woods and Dermott McArdle in the middle of the first half coupled with a scintillating Tom Freeman ‘team goal' changed the face of this first round Championship match.

This perhaps shows a new ruthless streak in the Monaghan set-up as key decisions have to be made at the appropriate time to determine the outcome of the game.

Armagh led 5-1 with the Monaghan full back line all being awarded yellow cards and simply unable to handle the imperious Stevie McDonnell and young Jamie Clarke.

In this period Armagh moved the ball swiftly and delivered many incisive passes to the marauding front line, however this was to be false dawn as Armagh failed to score only four points in the remainder of the game.

The goal which was created superbly by Ciaran Hanratty, certainly changed the direction of the game.

Dick Clerkin (left) with his favourite partner in crime, Eoin Lennon, supported by the finesse of Paul Finlay took over completely in the middle of the field and finished the first half strongly to lead by four points.

In fact once Brian Mallon was harshly sent off the game was essentially over.

Monaghan, apart from the initial period of the match and a very scrappy patch in the middle of the second half when they seemed to stray from their strategy, were so much on top.

Their power, belief, and superb finishing especially from Freeman and Finlay made sure that victory was never a doubt.

Conor McManus was an excellent foil for Freeman and won virtually every ball, therefore creating a platform for most of Monaghan's attacks.

They now surely have to be considered as real Ulster and All Ireland contenders but they must be able to remain grounded if they are to achieve their destiny.

Armagh must now regroup, not panic but look forward to a hectic month of fixtures and the return of Ronan Clarke.

Their play remains too predictable relying solely on their full forward line to gain the vital scores.

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