McManus kicks Monaghan to victory over Donegal
MONAGHAN 0-11 DONEGAL 0-10
Monaghan are Ulster Football champions after a slender but deserved victory over Donegal in Clones.
The third successive Ulster final meeting between these two sides was not pretty to watch at times but Monaghan won't mind that one bit as they hung on to lift the Anglo-Celt Cup despite not scoring in the last twenty minutes.
It was hard to believe just how poor Donegal were in the first half.
Last year's All-Ireland finalists led 0-3 to 0-1 after five minutes but incredibly they failed to score another point until the 33rd minute.
Donegal's build-up play was predictable and ineffective - with lateral passing and wasteful shooting causing no problem for a well-organised Monaghan defence.
In contrast, Monaghan kicked some fine scores and their work rate was far superior to that of Rory Gallagher's side.
Captain Conor McManus - who ended the game with six points - typified Monaghan's hunger in the 32nd minute when he pressurised the Donegal backs high up the pitch, forcing a turnover and then kicking an inspirational score.
Karl O'Connell, Owen Duffy, Kieran Duffy and Dessie Mone also chipped in with points for Monaghan who were well worthy of their 0-8 to 0-4 lead at half time.
Donegal tried to make a fast start in the second half but kicked three wides in the first three minutes of play.
Monaghan extended their lead from their first attack of the half when Owen Lennon kicked a fantastic point from the sideline.
Paddy McBrearty responded with two frees for Donegal to leave three just points between the sides.
McManus then stepped up to the plate once more with two fine scores putting Monaghan 0-11 to 0-6 in front.
To their credit Donegal refused to lie down and McBrearty - their only forward to score from play - single-handedly hauled them back into the game to leave just a point between the sides with five minutes left on the clock.
Despite not scoring themselves, Monaghan withstood a late onslaught from Donegal who had a chance to earn a replay deep into stoppage time but McBrearty's effort drifted agonisingly wide.
Donegal will now face Galway in the qualifiers while Malachy O'Rourke's men advance to the quarter-finals.
Donegal: P Durcan, P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee, R McHugh, K Lacey (0-01), F McGlynn (0-01), N Gallagher, M McElhinney, C Toye, O MacNiallais, M McHugh, P McBrearty (0-06, 4f), M Murphy (0-02, 2f), C McFadden.
Subs: M O’Reilly for Toye, A Thompson for Lacey, D O’Connor for McFadden, L McLoone for MacNiallais
Monaghan: R Beggan, D Mone (0-01), V Corey, R Wylie, C Walshe, F Kelly, K O’Connell (0-01), N McAdam, O Lennon (0-01), O Duffy (0-01), D Hughes, K Duffy (0-01), D Malone, K Hughes, C McManus (0-06, 3f)).
Subs: R McAnespie for O Duffy, S Gollogly for Malone, D Clerkin for Lennon
Referee: D Coldrick