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Donegal left feeling blue as Monaghan turn on the style to be crowned Ulster champions


By Declan Bogue

It just had to be Monaghan, really.

Ten years ago, they tripped up All-Ireland champions Armagh when they were shrouded in myth and legend.

Here, they paraded the Ulster-winning team of 1988 at half-time, a side that tripped up the fancied Tyrone.

In the minor game, they hit a late penalty and swiped the silverware when it all but looked to be Tyrone's.

They love the underdogs tag and spoiling parties.

Now they are utterly deserving Ulster champions after taking a title off Donegal that had been theirs for two years.

For some time we have been wondering just how Donegal would react to adversity and a scoreboard that wasn't ticking along as they would like.

They had never been in the position of chasing a game, that logic went, and so it might be interesting to see that happen.

Lo, it came to pass. Last week there were signs something like this might happen. Manager Jim McGuinness had mentioned that other teams would be well advised not to try and copy their style.

Eamonn McGee said something similar. Coincidence that it came after one of their most uncomfortable hours against Down?

As much as Donegal are lionised for their supreme ability to control games, testimonies of the Down players told of a narkiness within the All-Ireland champions when that contest hung in the balance.

Monaghan forced the issue early on by battering Donegal with turnovers.

In midfield Darren Hughes was rampaging forward and punching holes in their cover while Neil McGee was run ragged by Conor McManus as Monaghan ran up a four point lead after only eight minutes.

When a free-kick was awarded to Monaghan they immediately seized on it and kicked it forward. They weren't for letting the defensive cordon arrange itself.

One glaring statistic illustrating their dominance was that it took them 31 minutes to register their first score – a Colm McFadden free – while the normally assured McFadden had already hoofed a free and a '45' wide.

A minute later Ross Wherity was on the field as a sub for Leo McLoone.

It was the third change the champions had made and assistant manager Rory Gallagher was a frequent runner onto the field to advise on switches.

In the second half, though, Donegal were unable to stitch two scores together while Monaghan managed to just keep pushing the gap out.

Last ditch heroics and fortune helped them in the goalmouth as Donegal went long to Frank McGlynn and Michael Murphy, but then Malachy O'Rourke showed that he has absorbed many lessons.

In the tunnel afterwards, Dick Clerkin revealed: "We knew they had weaknesses.

"We knew that they were uncomfortable playing against their own system."

The victory, which came after the county's earlier dramatic minor triumph, earned Monaghan their 14th Ulster title but their first Anglo-Celt Cup triumph since 1988.

As everything malfunctioned for Donegal, Tommy Freeman came on in injury time and instantly hit a point.

Not long after, the long whistle blew and it was fairytale stuff for Monaghan.

At 7pm with the sun casting shadows from the Gerry Arthurs Stand, the Monaghan players made their way to the goals at the Eastern Stand end where a few of them goofed around and climbed on the crossbar.

Then, they lined up for a team photograph for all the fans who were still lingering on to enjoy the moment.

They will be framed and hung on walls from Aghabog to Annyalla.

Monaghan. Ulster champions, 2013.

Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; F McGlynn (0-1), K Lacey, A Thompson; R Kavanagh (0-1), R Bradley; M O'Reilly, L McLoone, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy [Capt], C McFadden (0-4, 4f). Subs: David Walsh for McHugh [10m], N Gallagher for O'Reilly [24m], R Wherity for McLoone [31m], R McHugh (0-1) for Walsh [h-time], M McElhinney for Bradley [65m]

Yellows cards: Kavanagh [18m], Murphy [30m].

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-2, 1f, 1x'45'); K Duffy, D Wylie, C Walshe; V Corey, N McAdam, D Mone (0-1); O Lennon [Capt], D Hughes (0-1); P Finlay, S Gollogly, D Malone; P Donaghy (0-1), K Hughes (0-3), C McManus (0-3, 3f). Subs: G Doogan for Gollogly [10m], D Clerkin for Doogan [51m], C McGuinness (0-1) for Malone [65m], T Freeman (0-1) for McManus [71m]

Yellows cards: McManus [35m], Malone [42m], Clerkin [58m]

Referee: David Coldrick (Monaghan)

Attendance: 31,912.

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