Ernemen see red as hopes are shattered
Monaghan 1-20 Fermanagh 0-13
Ten points separated these Ulster neighbours at the final whistle of yesterday's Ulster semi-final, but another example of the fine margins that exist in this competition came into play with two contentious refereeing decisions.
In the 54th minute, Monaghan were becoming ragged in their play, two recent Declan McCusker points with tricky distance and angles conquered spurring Fermanagh on. In midfield, Richie O'Callaghan and returning captain Eoin Donnelly were controlling affairs. From being six points down, they had narrowed the gap to three and had all the momentum.
Ryan McCluskey left his post sweeping, having performed that role to almost perfection and picked up Darren Hughes. The Monaghan man then tripped O'Callaghan, but referee Padraig O'Sullivan chose not to invoke the correct punishment for such an offence - the lesser-spotted black card.
Nevertheless, Sean Quigley was presented with a chance to narrow the gap to two and having converted a free from 50 metres two minutes earlier, he fluffed this one.
In the next play Monaghan sub Owen Duffy burrowed his way in towards the Fermanagh goal and was stopped. While on the ground, McCluskey gave him a nudge of his knees and after consulting with officials, O'Sullivan gave the Fermanagh veteran his marching orders.
Monaghan went on to score 1-6 in the next quarter of an hour. That's what the top teams can do to you and that's the difference of having, and trying to acquire, experience.
This first half was uneventful, with scores hard to come by.
Monaghan and Fermanagh were both guilty of dwelling on the ball. At different times Darren Hughes, Ciaran Flaherty and Richard O'Callaghan were all subject to sapping blockdowns when they could have made better use of possession.
Through sheer workrate and courage, Fermanagh kept themselves ahead of the game with a tight defence in situ and some busy performances, but they struggled to punch holes in the rearguard, leading to some dithering from the likes of Barry Mulrone all too frequently.
Sean Quigley and Ryan Jones put two points each on the score board, with Monaghan guilty of a few wild wides.
Their captain and key attacker Conor McManus was subject to a defence that came in numbers and ferocity. His direct marker was Marty O'Brien but he always had help close by ready to pounce on the Oriel star.
Fermanagh needed Sean Quigley to produce more from open play than he had against Antrim, and apart from one early impressive dispossession in the first half, he hardly had the ball in his hands for the first period.
As the game settled into a pattern, Kieran Hughes managed to gather a delivery from his brother Darren and executed a lovely mid-air shot on the turn with three men hanging out of him.
Monaghan made a push just before half time with Kieran Hughes and McManus converting frees, before Darren Hughes ploughed up the line and to the end line with a trio of defenders for company but managed to sneak it through a tight gap to leave Monaghan 0-7 to 0-5 up at the break.
With scores coming as a direct result of attacks breaking down, Monaghan were able to make more of their turnovers, with Owen Duffy making a great impression on one wing and Karl O'Connell doing the same on the other flank.
What appeared an unlikely Fermanagh comeback was kickstarted by two brilliant efforts from out on the wing by Ederney wing-back McCusker, and a credible Sean Quigley impersonation of Michael Murphy from the dead ball.
Just as it seemed anything was possible, along came McCluskey's red card and an instant sense of deflation.
As struggling as Fermanagh were, they were not helped when a Conor McManus shot produced his only score from play, despite it being clearly wide according to the members of the press with the best possible angle to judge it. Protestations to linesman Paudie Hughes were ignored. The resulting kickout was an attempt to play short to Eoin Donnelly and after it was botched, McManus shot for goal, it was parried by Erne goalkeeper Thomas Treacy, but he finished the rebound.
Monaghan even had the luxury of a missed penalty after McCusker brought down sub Stephen Gollogly in the square, and Treacy was equal to Gollogly's tame effort.
They will need to improve before they face Donegal and Derry in the final. But then again, you knew that anyway.
Monaghan: R Beggan 0-1, 1x'45'; K Duffy, V Corey, R Wylie; K O'Connell 0-1, F Kelly, C Walshe; O Lennon, N McAdam 0-1; D Mone 0-1, D Hughes 0-1, S Carey; K Hughes 0-3, 1f, D Malone 0-1, C McManus 1-6, 5f
Subs: O Duffy 0-3, and C McGuinness 0-1 for Carey and Malone (half-time), D Clerkin for Lennon (41m), S Gollogly 0-1 for Kelly (60m), P Finlay for K Hughes (65m), C Boyle for Mone (69m)
Yellow cards: D Hughes (46, 66m), Clerkin (65m)
Red cards: D Hughes (66m)
Fermanagh: T Treacy; M Jones, T Daly, M O'Brien; D McCusker 0-2, R McCluskey, B Mulrone; E Donnelly 0-1, R O'Callaghan; N Cassidy, R Jones 0-2, C Flaherty, T Corrigan 0-2, S Quigley 0-5, 4f, P McCusker
Subs: R Corrigan for Flaherty (43m), C Jones for O'Callaghan (60m), D Kille for P McCusker (64m), A Breen 0-1, for Jones (67m)
Yellow cards: R Jones (62m), Donnelly (66m)
Red cards: McCluskey (58m)
Referee: Padraig O'Sullivan (Kerry)