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Champions learn their lesson

July 7, 2014

• Ulster SFC Semi-Final Replay Armagh 1-13 Monaghan 1-18

Replays they say are all about which teams learns the most from the drawn match and in this case defending Ulster Champions Monaghan came out clearly on top. With the suspended Armagh trio available for selection it was pretty certain that the Orchard management would make changes. In-form substitute from the last day Tony Kernan along with Brendan Donaghy and Kieran Toner got the nod to start instead of Aaron Kernan, Ethan Rafferty and Kyle Carragher in the Armagh team but it was the re-shuffling from opposing manager Malachy O’Rourke that made the difference to this match from the outset.

The Farney manager shuffled his pack, bringing in Paul Finlay, Stephen Gollogly and Paudie McKenna in place of Jack McCarron, Padraig Donaghy and Kieran Duffy. From the outset it was very clear that a more focused Monaghan were not going to underestimate the Armagh challenge like the previous week. The time and space afforded to Ciaran McKeever, the ball to the very influential Kevin Dyas, were taken out of the equation with the defending Ulster champions vastly improved from the side which drew with Armagh eight days earlier, and were more convincing winners than the five-point winning scoreline suggests.

Armagh led early through a long range Tony Kernan free but the hosts, through a brace of points from the very influential Darren Hughes, against the run of play Armagh struck for the game’s first goal on 12 minutes.

Tony Kernan’s hand-pass, over the top of a few defenders was well collected by Aidan Forker, who saw his shot crash off the crossbar but the unmarked Aaron Findon was there to palm the rebound into the net for an easy finish and a 1-1 to 0-2 lead. The game’s top marksman Conor McManus opened his account on the quarter hour with pointed frees from Paul Finlay and Rory Beggan  putting Monaghan back in front as Finnian Moriarty was black-carded for tripping McManus after 22 minutes and was replaced by Andy Mallon. McManus converted a superb free but Tony Kernan converted two subsequent frees to keep Armagh in touch. A possible penalty to Armagh was waved away, with Monaghan then sweeping down the field as Beggan’s long kickout bounced over several players’ heads before being caught by Kieran Hughes who delivered a superb long pass into McManus who drilled the ball past Philip McEvoy. Stephen Gollogly and Eugene McVerry traded points as Monaghan led 1-8 to 1-4 at half-time.

Kyle Carragher and Stephen Harold replaced McVerry and Toner for the second half and Monaghan brough on Chris McGuinness for Kieran Hughes. It was Monaghan who made the better start as they stretched that lead out to 1-13 to 1-6 after 47 minutes. McManus, Beggan, half-back Kelly and Finlay supplied the points with Kernan and Clarke replying for Armagh, who brought on Mickey Murray and Aaron Kernan in place of Morgan and Donaghy. As the rain descended Armagh hit three points on the trot, Clarke (2) and Tony Kernan, to reduce the deficit to four points but any hopes of a comeback were quashed when Finlay ended a ten minute scoring drought for Monaghan with a great point from out on the sideline. Hero from last week Rory Grugan had replaced Forker on the hour mark as Armagh used their last substitute. Two minutes later a black card for Stefan Campbell left goal seeking Armagh down to 14 men. Instead, Finlay and McManus (2) registered three Monaghan points in as many minutes – 1-16 to 1-9 with nine minutes to go. Kernan and McManus swopped frees before McManus converted a superb sideline ball for the score of the game. Kernan and Clarke (free) hit two late consolation points but Monaghan progress to back-to-back Ulster finals for the first time since 1943-1944.

For Armagh it does not get any easier as they now face another crunch derby match against Tyrone in the second round of the Qualifiers in Omagh next weekend. Tactically outwitted in the replay Armagh management will have to come up with something new to overcome Tyrone. Defensively solid in the drawn game they were easily exposed in the replay with the changes obviously going against them on the day. The chips are down once again so it’s all or nothing next Weekend with the 2014 championship roadshow on the line.

ARMAGH: P McEvoy; J Morgan, C Vernon, F Moriarty; M Shields, B Donaghy, C McKeever; K Toner, A Findon (1-0); E McVerry (0-1), K Dyas, A Forker; T Kernan (0-7), S Campbell, J Clarke (0-5). Subs: A Mallon for Moriarty (BC, 23), K Carragher for McVerry (HT), S Harold for Toner (HT), M Murray for Morgan (40), A Kernan for Donaghy (46), R Grugan for Forker (59).

MONAGHAN: R Beggan (0-2); R Wylie, D Wylie, C Walshe; D Mone, V Corey, F Kelly; D Clerkin (0-1), D Hughes (0-2); P Finlay (0-3), S Gallogly (0-1), P McKenna; D Malone (0-1), K Hughes, C McManus (1-7). Subs: C McGuinness (0-1) for K Hughes (HT), G Doogan for Clerkin (67)

REFEREE: Marty Duffy (Sligo).

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