Monaghan 1-21 Fermanagh 0-14
There was a distinct bitter-sweet taste to this resounding Ulster Championship triumph for Monaghan over near-neighbours Fermanagh at the week-end.
The Farney county may have taken a confident stride into the last four of the provincial series but they do so burdened by worries over the fitness of two of their most experienced players Conor McManus and Darren Hughes.
Both limped out of what was a composed performance against a Fermanagh side that never quite engaged forward gear and found the cohesion and craft of their opponents too much. Monaghan coach Vinny Corey certainly wasted no time in laying it on the line in relation to the injuries.
“Look, this upcoming Ulster semi-final will be our biggest game of the year to date and we want to have everyone on board. I think Conor’s injury ln particular looked serious enough but we will certainly be doing everything we can to get these guys fit. You need all hands on board if possible when the championship hots up,” declared Corey.
But while Corey can contemplate further championship progress, Fermanagh boss Ryan McMenamin is left to ponder a truncated season that has yielded little joy. His side had been hoping to gain a modicum of comfort from the Ulster series after a disappointing Division Three campaign in the league but it was not to be.
“Obviously we did not make the progress that we had hoped for and now our interest in the championship is ended. We had planned to put more heat on Monaghan when they came out for the second-half but it did not work out like that,” reflected McMenamin.
“We were able, though, to put more pressure on Rory Beggan’s kick-outs and there were a couple of penalty calls and even if one of those had been given it would have been a big help. We had to work hard to earn our frees in the first-half but Monaghan had the momentum. We just did not bring enough intensity to the middle third of the pitch.”
A 13th minute Jack McCarron goal proved the catalyst for an accomplished first-half display that saw the Farney county build up a 1-11 to 0-7 lead before going on to further assert their dominance.
The pace of Stephen O’Hanlon and Aaron Mulligan in particular kept the Fermanagh defence at full-strength and had it not been for Sean Quigley’s accuracy from play and frees – he scored 0-7 in all - the Erne county might well have suffered further embarrassment.
Quigley’s four-point haul in the first-half helped to sustain his team’s challenge while in the second-half Ciaran Corrigan, Josh Largo Ellis, Ultan Kelm and Quigley worked hard in a bid to lift their team’s spirits.
Killian Lavelle’s midfield authority coupled with clever defensive covering helped Monaghan to see out the game with some degree of comfort. With manager Seamus McEnaney expected to be back in harness for the remainder of the season following his suspension emanating from the team’s breach of collective training restrictions Monaghan’s championship campaign is expected to gain fresh stimulus.
"We are very keen to have Seamus back,” said Vinny Corey.
MONAGHAN: R Beggan 0-1 (‘45’); K Duffy, C Boyle 0-1, R Wylie 0-1; K O’Connell 0-1, D Ward 0-1, R McAnespie; D Hughes, K Lavelle 0-1; S O’Hanlon, C McCarthy 0-1, M Bannigan 0-2; A Mulligan 0-3, J McCarron 1-2 (1f), C McManus 0-4 (1f, 1 ‘mark’). Subs: N Kearns 0-1 for D Hughes (33m), C Walshe 0-2 (1 ‘mark’) for McCarron (51), S Carey for O’Hanlon (56), K Hughes for McCarthy (63), F Kelly for O’Connell (68), K McMenamin for Lavelle (74 )
FERMANAGH: S McNally; K Connor, J Cassidy 0-1, L Flanagan; D McCusker, J McMahon, K McDonnell; S McGullion, E Donnelly; C Corrigan 0-1, C McManus, J Largo-Ellis 0-1; U Kelm 0-1, D McGurn 0-1, S Quigley 0-7 (5f, 1 ‘45’). Subs: A Breen 0-2 for McDonnell (26), R O’Callaghan for McGurn (42), S Cassidy for McManus (59), T Bogue for McMahon (65), M McCauley for McGullion (65)
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)