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Down left in a daze by mighty Monaghan

Monaghan 2-22 - Down 0-09

By Declan Bogue

Down manager Eamonn Burns eventually emerged from the dressing room after his side were handed their heaviest ever Ulster Championship defeat by Monaghan and said: "Confidence comes from winning games, we came here full of confidence."

However, it has been 14 months since Down won a game of any significance, and that in a National League Division Two game. Under Burns, they have only mustered one win, a Dr McKenna Cup victory over the students of St Mary's 145 days ago.

And the odd thing is that after Donal O'Hare clipped over a free in the 36th minute to leave two points in the quarter-final clash, we thought we were in for the tightest game of this Ulster Championship to date.

The signs, though, were there. On 18 minutes, with Down leading 0-4 to 0-3, Oriels' Dermot Malone urged his team-mates to mark every Down player for Stephen Kane's kickouts.

Sweeper Kieran Duffy (twice) and Karl O'Connell secured the next three Down kickouts, turning them into two Conor McManus pointed frees and a Shane Carey point.

Of the 25 Down kickouts after Monaghan applied the pressure, the Ulster champions turned over the ball 13 times. That there wasn't a change of plan with Darren Hughes and Karl O'Connell lording the aerial battles appeared to be a fault of coaching and planning.

While Burns handed Championship debuts to Gerard McGovern, Joe Murphy and Barry O'Hagan, there were flashes from veterans Aidan Carr, Kevin McKernan and Peter Turley that they had brought their appetite.

They could also claim to be harshly treated by referee Conor Lane in the opening half, one spectacular Kieran Hughes spin and dive into the chest of Kevin McKernan rewarded with a close-in free.

Most damaging for the Down psyche were the eight first-half wides. Converting even half of those would have provided a bit of adrenaline, but a sober analysis would hold that they were rushed, exactly what you get from inexperienced players.

At the break, the Monaghan lead had grown to 0-9 to 0-6. For the first few minutes of the second-half, Burns kept Mark Poland and Conor Maginn in a more advanced position, and so began their scoreless 27 minutes.

The breeze meant Kane's kickouts were being held up in the air for Darren Hughes and others to break down. On the floor, the Oriels were more alert and eager.

Under severe pressure, the Mournemen began to wilt. Aidan Carr was playing as sweeper but simply had too many places to be.

On 46 minutes, Hughes turned the ball over with a strong tackle and worked it to Carey, who transferred to Conor McCarthy to fist over. A McCarthy free five minutes later left it 0-14 to 0-7.

Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan advanced to take four dead balls in the second-half. He converted three as the Down supporters began to filter out.

Burns sent in a number of subs but they had little influence. One of those was Paul Devlin who won a kickout but was instantly stripped of possession by Kieran Duffy.

The Latton man drove towards McManus and when the ball bounced over his head, Kieran Hughes hit his shot past Kane.

The second goal arrived in the closing moments. Ryan Wylie had possession and transferred to Thomas Kerr, who brought it infield to Darren Hughes. He ran and released to substitute Owen Duffy, who placed his shot.

Monaghan piled on four more points and face the winners of Donegal and Fermanagh at Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday June 25, while the other semi-final of Tyrone and Cavan has been set for Clones on Sunday June 19.

MONAGHAN: R Beggan 0-3, 0-2f, 1x '45', R Wylie, D Wylie, K Duffy; V Corey, C Walshe, D Mone; D Hughes, K O'Connell 0-1; S Carey 0-1, D Malone 0-1, R McAnespie 0-1; C McManus 0-8, 6f, K Hughes 1-2, C McCarthy 0-2, 1f. Subs: O Duffy 1-0 for McAnespie (51m), F Kelly for Mone (53m), P Finlay for K Hughes, D McKenna 0-2, for McCarthy (59m), D Clerkin 0-1 for Corey (63m), T Kerr for Carey (64m). Yellow cards: Malone (30). Black cards: 0. Red cards: 0

DOWN: S Kane; G McGovern, C McGovern, D O'Hagan; D McKibben, A Carr, D O'Hanlon 0-2, 2f, G Collins; P Turley, K McKernan; J Murphy, M Poland 0-1, C Maginn 0-2; C Harrison, B O'Hagan 0-1.Subs: D O'Hare 0-2, 1f, for O'Hagan (half-time), P Devlin 0-1, f for Murphy (48m), J Flynn for McKibbin (55m), D Turley for Collins (62m), R Mallon for Maginn (68m). Yellow cards: Collins (49), Devlin (68). Black cards: P Turley (40, replaced by H Brown). Red cards: 0

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

Attendance: 12,782

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