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How Farney sealed their place as the Ulster kings

By Declan Bogue

The 127th Ulster Senior Football Championship has been and gone and, bizarrely for its reputation of being anyone's game on the day, produced only one result worthy of the label 'shock', with Monaghan beating Donegal in the final.

Here, we take a look back at the seven key moments and instances that shaped the story of this year's edition.

1. McManus breaks free

In the 28th minute of the Ulster final, referee David Coldrick made an error in booking both Monaghan captain Conor McManus and his direct opponent Neil McGee, when a yellow card for the latter's wrestling off the ball would have been the appropriate action.

That caution left McGee on a tightrope and four minutes later Christy Toye found himself caught in possession deep in Donegal's defence. Ryan Wylie was tackling him but McManus got away from McGee and forced the turnover. He still had a serious amount of work to do to ride a challenge from McGee before slotting it over the crossbar. That score was his first from play, put the Farney 0-6 to 0-3 in front and provided the belief for Monaghan to go on and win.

2. O'Rourke's use of the bench

Throughout his four games in the Championship, Donegal manager Rory Gallagher used 17 substitutes. Quite often the majority of those came with limited time to make an impact, but in the final alone the four subs got 86 minutes.

Gallagher did not get a single point from any of his replacements. He may not trust the bench given that Leo McLoone and Darach O'Connor, who only re-integrated into the group in the run-in to the showpiece, were both sent on in the decider.

Farney boss Malachy O'Rourke had more at his disposal. He used 10 subs in the wins over Cavan and Fermanagh and the scoring return was 0-7. He is in the happy place of having respected veterans like Dick Clerkin and Paul Finlay content to come on and make a contribution in the final quarter.

3. The red card effect

In their first round game against Derry, Down defender Conaill McGovern shoved Enda Lynn as they got ready to get the second half under way. Lynn hit the deck and held his face. Referee Eddie Kinsella consulted with umpires before awarding McGovern a red card, leading to accusations from Down boss Jim McCorry that the incident had been "orchestrated".

Fermanagh defender Ryan McCluskey nudged Owen Duffy on the ground in their semi-final defeat to Monaghan in what manager Pete McGrath described as a "gesture of frustration". Again, the umpires spoke to referee Padraig O'Sullivan who brandished red. At the time, the Ernemen had scored the last three points and were three adrift.

Perhaps neither of those teams would have won their games anyway, but their chances were decimated by poor judgment calls from officials.

4. Cavan fail to Argue

In their Championship opener, Cavan manager Terry Hyland spotted what he thought was a weakness in the Monaghan defence and tried to exploit it.

At 5ft 11in, Drew Wylie is not the biggest full-back, so Hyland sent in the raw but promising Michael Argue. At 20 years of age, he stands 6ft 5in in sock soles and is more than half a stone heavier than Wylie.

He scored a point in each half, but Cavan failed to service the Bailieborough youngster with quality ball delivered on the diagonal. Wylie got to grips with him after a bit and Cavan's main attacking ploy was nullified.

5. Malfunctioning Derry attack

Derry manager Brian McIver has left the stage, fuming about refereeing decisions, but he could still be in the Championship as an Ulster finalist if his forwards had been that little bit more clinical in the Ulster semi-final against Donegal.

Lynn declined to kick the ball over the bar while all alone in the 'D' after six minutes, and had a goal chance that was smothered by Paul Durcan in the first minute. As the game began to disappear from them, they were further hampered by a poor free-kick miss by an out of sorts Eoin Bradley.

6. Corey v Murphy part III For three Ulster finals in a row, Monaghan's Vinny Corey has marked Michael Murphy, rendering him scoreless from play. Whatever about Murphy's roving role, it is a serious blow to Donegal's confidence to see their 'Hammer' hammered.

7. Monaghan shooting on sight

Rather than hold onto the ball and risk giving Donegal the adrenaline boost of a turnover, Monaghan showed that you have to shoot often and make sure the ball goes dead to give yourself a chance to regroup for the next kickout.

It's a policy of throwing enough muck at the wall to make it stick and other teams will now follow.

Belfast Telegraph


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