Monaghan 3-16 Antrim 0-13
This was a convincing performance by Monaghan at St Tiarnach’s Park in Clones, which earned the Farneymen promotion to division two of the Allianz National Football League next season. But they were up against an Antrim side which at times lacked in conviction and was too reliant on Paddy Cunningham. The Lámh Dhearg man scored eight of their points, half of them from frees.
The visitors had a great chance in the first minute, but Cunningham’s shot at goal from close range was blocked by an effective Monaghan defence. The ball was cleared up the field and a pass found Christopher McGuinness in the perfect spot to rattle the Antrim net, giving substitute keeper Chris Kerr little chance.
Monaghan added two points in the next four minutes, then Cunningham got the first of his frees, making it 1-2 to 0-1. Both sides exchanged further scores then Monaghan started to apply the pressure, adding four points, one of them a beautifully taken one from long range by Dick Clerkin. Two more Cunningham frees for the visitors had made it 1-7 to 0-03 after 25 minutes, when Antrim got their first score from play through Michael Pollock, then each side added a further point. Then with the break approaching Kieran Hughes scored Monaghan’s second goal, 2-8 to 0-5. Cunningham and Paul Finlay for Monaghan were both on target with frees and a neatly-taken point by St Gall’s half forward Kevin Niblock rounded off the first half and meant that Antrim still had a slim chance of turning things round in the second, although trailing by eight points,
Monaghan 2-9 Antrim 0-7 Half Time
Antrim got off to a good start in the second half, but Monaghan were more than capable of dealing with any of their attacks and McGuinness almost grabbed his second goal but was penalised for over-carrying. It was left to his colleague Darren Hughes to assure a Monaghan win with a nice three-pointer in the 49th minute, 3-11 to 0-9.
Eoin Duffy added a good point at the end of an attack involving Conor McManus, Owen Lennon and Clerkin, but Antrim hit back with three in a row – two from Cunningham and one by Michael Pollock. McManus kicked a couple of points from frees after fouls on Kieran Hughes and Stephen Gollogly. Andy McClean rounded off the scoring for the Saffrons, but Monaghan were deserving winners. Hughes though received a second yellow and therefore a red card before the final whistle, so Monaghan ended the game with fourteen players.
The two teams will face each other again in the Ulster senior football championship in June. Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke said afterwards he thought the game at Casement Park will not be as easy:-
“We are delighted to get the win and secure promotion. We knew Antrim would be tricky opponents but we got a good start and kept the lead. Antrim battled hard but we got the goal at the right time – they had a lot of players missing and it will be a completely different team when we meet them in the championship”, he said.
Before then, the Farneymen will take on Meath in the division three final at Croke Park in Dublin on April 27th. One thing that annoyed me about the Antrim side this afternoon (which did not include any players from my Belfast parish of St Brigid’s). As Amhrán na bhFiann was being sung before the throw-in, some of the Saffron players were jumping up and down, doing their stretching exercises. One of them broke away from the bunch before the national anthem had even ended. Very disrespectful, in my opinion, and not something the Tyrone management or I’m sure any other county would encourage.