Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final
Fermanagh 1-08 Monaghan 0-10
Rory Gallagher master-minded the biggest shock of this year’s senior football championship with an injury-time goal from captain Eoin Donnelly putting 14-man Fermanagh through to an unexpected Ulster final appearance on June 24.
Pre-match favourites Monaghan looked to have finally broken down Fermanagh’s defensive wall in the last quarter-final when they hit the front for the first time with 11 minutes remaining at Healy Park.
They led by two points thanks to Drew Wylie’s second point of the day just as five minutes of injury-time was signalled but a long, high ball lobbed into the square by Ryan Jones was fisted to the net by Donnelly to put the Erne county into a first provincial decider since 2008.
Fermanagh, who have never won the Anglo Celt, did not start their talisman forward Seamus Quigley because of a breach of discipline last week.
Gallagher stuck to his guns and didn’t throw him on in the closing stages when they needed a score and his decision was vindicated when Donnelly boxed the ball past Rory Beggan, after sub Tomas Corrigan had come up trumps with two nerveless frees.
Fermanagh finished the game with 14 players having used all six substitutes by the time Ruairi Corrigan picked up a black card for tripping Conor McCarthy in the 67th minute.
As expected, the game was dour and hard to watch as Monaghan, who racked up 1-18 in a superb win over Tyrone at the same venue two weeks ago, were badly disrupted by Fermanagh’s system of play and simply never got going.
Unforced errors in the first half, not to mention seven wides, had them trailing 0-6 to 0-4 at the break.
Fermanagh led from the off, Aidan Breen kicking two points off either foot in the opening quarter while the McCusker brothers Paul and Declan were hugely influential ball carriers in the hardest of working half-forward lines.
Monaghan indiscretions were punished at times by Sean Quigley, who landed three frees but missed two in the first half.
Conor McManus’ 17th minute free was all Monaghan had to show for their opening half an hour’s play.
They finished the half strongly with Fintan Kelly’s point along with two more McManus frees keeping them in touch in a claustrophobic opening period.
The introduction of Dermot Malone and Conor McCarthy gave Monaghan fresh legs and pace to run at tiring legs and it brought Monaghan back into the game.
The mistakes they had been making under no pressure suddenly dried up and they looked to be a growing force when Ryan McAnespie and a McManus free brought them level for the first time at six points apiece in the 56th minute.
When Wylie put them ahead, Fermanagh had to respond quickly which they did through Tomas Corrigan’s excellently struck free-kick.
Monaghan, keen to avoid an Ulster semi-final defeat for the third year in a row, kicked strongly for home with Colin Walshe’s majestic long-range point and another McManus free.
But there was time for more drama, Donnelly climbing highest to grab the all-important goal in the 71st minute, with McManus’ late attempt for an equaliser dropping wide in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Scorers for Fermanagh: Eoin Donnelly 1-0, Sean Quigley 0-3 (3f), Tomas Corrigan 0-2 (2f), Aidan Breen 0-2, Conall Jones 0-1.
Scorers for Monaghan: Conor McManus 0-5 (5f), Drew Wylie 0-2, Fintan Kelly 0-1, Ryan McAnespie 0-1, Colin Walshe 0-1
FERMANAGH: Patrick Cadden; Kane Connor, Che Cullen, Michael Jones; Barry Mulrone, James McMahon, Lee Cullen; Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones; Paul McCusker, Declan McCusker, Aidan Breen; Sean Quigley, Conall Jones, Ciaran Corrigan. Subs: Daniel Teague for Jones (43), Ruairi Corrigan for P Mccusker (51), Tomas Corrigan for Sean Quigley (55), Tom Clarke for C Corrigan (60), Ryan Lyons for C Jones (62), Cian McManus for Breen (65)
MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan; Kieran Duffy, Drew Wylie, Ryan Wylie; Dessie Lone, Vinnie Corey, Fintan Kelly; Karl O’Connell, Darren Hughes; Kieran Hughes, Niall Kearns, Dessie Ward; Ryan McAnespie, Jack McCarron, Conor McManus. Subs:Dermot Malone for Ward (41), Conor McCarthy for McCarron (41), Colin Walshe for Kelly (51), Owen Duffy for K Hughes (55), Conor Boyle for Mone (65), Shane Carey for Corey (70)
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)