Ulster Senior Football Championship Semi Final:
Fermanagh 0-13 Monaghan 1-20
Monaghan have secured their place in the Ulster Football Final for the third year in a row following a strong second half performance to see off Fermanagh in Kingspan Breffni Park.
The dismissal of Ryan McCluskey proved costly for Fermanagh as Monaghan finished strongly to book their place in the provincial decider.
McCluskey received a straight card in the 58th minute for a challenge on Monaghan substitute Owen Duffy after his team had fought back from six points down to trail by just 0-14 to 0-11.
Fermanagh visibly wilted after the sending-off and Monaghan outscored them by 1-6 to 0-2 in the closing stages, Conor McManus with the game’s only goal in the 65th minute.
Darren Hughes was also dismissed three minutes from the end for a second yellow card but it made no impact with the result already assured.
In front of 16,572 in Kingspan Breffni Park, the sides were level five times in the first half hour of a tactical, suffocating battle.
As expected, both teams made late changes to the starting teams with fit-again Erne captain Eoin Donnelly starting as expected, while key forward Ruairí Corrigan was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Monaghan drafted in Owen Lennon for his first appearance in 14 months after recovering from an ankle injury.
It was another late replacement, Kieran Duffy, who raised the first white flag of the game for Monaghan in the seventh minute but Seán Quigley (free) and Tomás Corrigan nudged Fermanagh ahead.
With players rotating all over the field, it was a tentative start but there were some memorable points scored by both teams.
Ryan Jones scored two excellent long-range points for Fermanagh in the first half while at the other end, Kieran Hughes was causing problems playing at full-forward for Monaghan.
He caught a high ball in from his brother Darren and turned to shoot left-footed over this right shoulder for a fine score to tie the scores at 0-3 apiece.
Jones’ second point had Fermanagh ahead 0-5 to 0-4 after 27 minutes, but Monaghan reeled off three points in-a-row before half-time.
Kieran Hughes’ free from near the sideline tied the scores before two injury-time points from Conor McManus (free) and an excellent Darren Hughes point.
The latter drove through and pointed from a tight angle to put a two-point gap between the teams for the first time, the 2013 Ulster champions leading by 0-7 to 0-5 at the break.
Both teams missed chances. Monaghan hit six wides (to Fermanagh’s three) but Fermanagh also gave possession away too cheaply as they tried to penetrate inside Monaghan’s ’45’ line.
Fermanagh scored two out of the first three points at the start of the second half through Quigley and Eoin Donnelly to close the deficit to a single point again.
But Monaghan appeared to find another gear with half-time subs Owen Duffy and Chris McGuinness both pointing, along with Dessie Mone and Karl O’Connell.
Conor McManus’ free put the favourites 0-14 to 0-8 ahead after 50 minutes and the intensity dipped with Fermanagh visibly deflated.
However, Pete McGrath’s men dug deep and found another gear with wing-back Declan McCusker coming forward to hit two great points from distance.
Sean Quigley stroked over a monster free from 55 metres to bring Fermanagh right back into the game at three points down.
The momentum shifted again when Ryan McCluskey received a straight red card for an off the ball clash on Owen Duffy in the 58th minute.
Conor McManus pointed the free to put Monaghan four points up and then netted Monaghan’s only goal five minutes from the end, tapping home the rebound after his initial shot was parried by goalkeeper Thomas Treacy.
Monaghan streamed forward looking for another goal and Stephen Gallogly was awarded a penalty for a trip by Declan McCusker.
His penalty was saved, but Rory Beggan landed the ’45’ with Aidan Breen’s last gasp score no consolation to Fermanagh, as Monaghan booked a place in next month’s provincial final against Donegal or Derry.
Scorers for Monaghan: C McManus 1-6 (5f), K Hughes 0-3 (1f), O Duffy 0-3, K Duffy, D Hughes, C McGuinness, S Gallogly, N McAdam, D Mone, K O’Connell 0-1 each, R Beggan 0-1 (1 ’45).
Scorers for Fermanagh: S Quigley 0-5 (4f), T Corrigan, R Jones, D McCusker 0-2 each, E Donnelly, A Breen 0-1 each.
MONAGHAN: R Beggan; K Duffy, V Corey, R Wylie; K O’Connell, F Kelly, C Walshe; N McAdam, O Lennon; D Mone, D Hughes, S Carey; K Hughes, D Malone, C McManus. Subs: O Duffy for Carey (HT), C McGuinness for Malone (HT), D Clerkin for Lennon (40), S Gallogly (0-1) for Kelly (59), P Finlay for K Hughes (65), C Boyle for Mone (68).
FERMANAGH: T Treacy; M Jones, N Cassidy, M O’Brien; D McCusker, R McCluskey, T Daly; E Donnelly, R O’Callaghan; B Mulrone, R Jones, C Flaherty; T Corrigan, S Quigley, P McCusker Subs: R Corrigan for Flaherty (41), C Jones for O’Callaghan (59), D Kille for P McCusker (65), A Breen for M Jones (69).
Referee: Pádraig O’Sullivan (Kerry)
Report: Orla Bannon