LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL

Conor McManus (Monaghan) receives Man of the Match award Photo: Monaghan GAA

Conor McManus (Monaghan) receives Man of the Match award Photo: Monaghan GAA

Cork beat Donegal in the first semi-final  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cork beat Donegal in the first semi-final Photo: © Michael Fisher

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Monaghan huddle before the throw-in Photo: © Michael Fisher

Monaghan huddle before the throw-in Photo: © Michael Fisher

Monaghan huddle before the throw-in Photo: © Michael Fisher

Monaghan huddle before the throw-in Photo: © Michael Fisher

Monaghan huddle before the throw-in Photo: © Michael Fisher

Monaghan huddle before the throw-in Photo: © Michael Fisher

View from the Lower Hogan Stand  Photo: © Michael Fisher

View from the Lower Hogan Stand Photo: © Michael Fisher

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A close call for the Dubs as valiant Monaghan go down by a single point in the National League semi-final at Croke Park 0-17 to 0-16. After last week’s drubbing by the Dubs at Clones, there weren’t too many supporters in the crowd of 20,000 expecting a Monaghan win. But as one friend from Emyvale said to me before the game, a defeat of around four points would be a good result for the Farneymen. In the end Monaghan almost managed a draw and a chance of taking victory in extra time. The Dubs however moved the ball quickly and precisely, launching wave upon wave of attacks on the Monaghan defence. But Monaghan kept with them all the way, up until the sixtieth minute when the sides were level on fourteen points each.

Monaghan huddle before the throw-in Photo: © Michael Fisher

Monaghan huddle before the throw-in Photo: © Michael Fisher

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HALF TIME: Dublin 0-09  Monaghan 0-07

(RTÉ Sport)

Dublin just about deserved their early advantage after a tense opening. Monaghan defended in numbers when Dublin attacked which was perhaps to be expected. Their last Croke Park clash with Dublin in the 2014 Championship ended in a 17-points battering. When the sides met in the final round of the league last weekend, Dublin were again double digit victors. So Monaghan regularly got 12 and 13 men behind the ball, often leaving McManus isolated in attack.

Malachy O’Rourke’s side did go forward in numbers when in possession, however, and picked off some fine points with an efficient display. Man-of-the-match Conor McManus was marked by David Byrne until the 52nd minute when Jonny Cooper was moved onto him. The Clontibret attacker gave Byrne a torrid time and scored six points off him. The ex-All Star escaped for two early points from play and another from a free after a foul on Owen Duffy. Kieran Hughes boomed over a beauty from distance too as did Neil McAdam while goalkeeper Rory Beggan nailed a free from all of 55 metres out.

Points came slightly easier to Dublin initially though and they also had a great goal chance when Cian O’Sullivan dragged a 30th minute shot wide. Dublin defender Philly McMahon strode forward for two points while Rock hit three points in the opening half, all from placed balls. Dubs rookie Brian Fenton closed out the first-half scoring and doubled his tally in the 42nd minute.

But Monaghan were the dominant force for much of the second-half and turned in a powerful display. McManus kicked three more scores from play in a row before Byrne was substituted. Dick Clerkin was excellent as a sub, scoring three points in all that helped Monaghan draw level at 0-13 each in the 55th minute. They remained tied with six minutes remaining but Dublin edged a tense finale thanks to those late points from Rock, O Conghaile and McCaffrey.

Dublin: S Cluxton, J Cooper, David Byrne, J McCaffrey (0-01), J Small, P McMahon (0-02), J McCarthy, D Bastick (0-01), C O’Sullivan, P Flynn (0-01), D Connolly, B Fenton (0-02), K McManamon (0-02), D Rock (0-07, 0-06f, 0-01 45), C Kilkenny.

Subs: MD Macauley for O’Sullivan, P Andrews for McManamon, D Daly for Byrne, E O Conghaile (0-01) for Bastick, C Costello for Fenton, T Brady for Flynn.

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-01, 0-01f), F Kelly, K Duffy, R Wylie, K O’Connell, V Corey, N McAdam (0-01), D Hughes, P Finlay (0-01, 0-01f); D Mone, K Hughes (0-02), T Kerr, R McAnespie, C McManus (0-08, 0-03f), O Duffy.

Subs: D Clerkin (0-03) for Kerr, D Malone for Duffy, S Gollogly for McAnespie, P McKenna for Finlay, D McKenna for O’Connell.

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).

Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke: “We’re pleased with a lot of aspects of our performance. We upped it in the second half. At 14-all we would have liked to go on and win it but that didn’t happen. We’ll take a lot of positives out of the league but we realise we still have a lot of work to do.”

Dublin manager Jim Gavin: “If we’re looking for positives, going down the stretch Monaghan looked in the ascendancy but our guys dug deep and found the scores. Some of our decision-making was poor but Monaghan were very impressive. The game could have gone either way.”

NIAMH KINDLON

Monaghan Ladies Footballer Niamh Kindlon Photo:  © Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Monaghan Ladies Footballer Niamh Kindlon Photo: © Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Monaghan All-Star footballer Niamh Kindlon from Magheracloone is profiled as one of the modern greats of ladies football in next week’s popular GAA documentary series Laochra Gael. It will be broadcast tonight (Tuesday March 3rd) by TG4 at 8pm. A special preview screening took place last Thursday evening at McNally’s bar in Carrickmacross for Niamh, her family and friends. It was attended by the TG4 Ceannaire (Director General) Pól Ó Gallchóir.

Pól Ó Gallchóir, Ceannaire TG4

Pól Ó Gallchóir, Ceannaire TG4

Each of the ten programmes in the new season contains an extended interview with the subject, archive footage of her or his finest hour on the pitch and an assessment from friends, rivals and team-mates.

Niamh started out under the guidance of her father Maurice as an enthusiastic nine year-old with her club Magheracloone and has been a leading light for Monaghan ladies ever since. Aged sixteen and in her first season with the senior team she played a crucial role in the 1997 All-Ireland final. Ten minutes before half-time, Niamh drilled the ball high into the top right-hand corner of the net at the Canal End goal from twenty yards. Michael Ryan, who managed the Waterford ladies, said that “even to this day, it’s the greatest goal I’ve ever seen scored in ladies’ football”.

The following year the two counties clashed once again in two epic All-Irelands after the first final ended in a draw. Unfortunately for Monaghan, Waterford won the second time round but the rivalry set a new standard for ladies football.

Niamh Kindlon on Laochra Gael, TG4

Niamh Kindlon on Laochra Gael, TG4

Niamh captained Monaghan back to Croke Park in 2002 when they took on the cream of the crop from Mayo but the Westerners took the cup home once again, leaving Niamh heartbroken, “There’s bigger things than football but when you’re in that moment it’s very hard to think past it because you’re so upset about it. It’s still hard to put on your boots on again after it”, she reveals. 2003 was no easier for Niamh when she suffered the first of two cruciate injuries but she was determined not to let injury dictate the end of her career. “I didn’t want my cruciate to be the reason I retired from county football.”

Niamh and Monaghan both made the comeback but a new force in Ladies Gaelic had emerged to dominate the game: Cork. Over the following years they defeated Monaghan in three finals 2008, 2011 and 2013. Niamh talks especially about her personal disappointment at not been selected to play a full part in the latter two finals.

While there have been many ups and downs it is clear that Niamh loved every minute since she joined the county team as a teenager and her haul of three League titles, three All Stars and an All-Ireland medal attest to her consistency as one of the leading Ladies’ Gaelic Footballers in recent decades. She has also won several Ulster medals with Monaghan.

Niamh who is now 33 is a plumber by trade. Apart from Gaelic football, her other interests included basketball and for a time, soccer. As well as an extensive interview with Niamh the programme also features interviews with teammate Christina Reilly, Cork’s Juliet Murphy, Dubliner Fiona Ní Chorcoráin and Robbie Ó Grifín

The documentary on Niamh is the fourth of ten in the series, which will also feature Fan & Philly Larkin from Kilkenny, Dublin’s Barney Rock, Brendan Cummins from Tipperary, Michael Duignan from Offaly, Kerry’s Ogie Moran and Ryan McMenamin of Tyrone. Catch the programme every Tuesday at 8pm on TG4, with a repeat broadcast every Sunday evening after GAA BEO. Laochra Gael is produced by Nemeton TV for TG4.

 

 

MONAGHAN GO UP!

Dick Clerkin: A Helping Hand

Dick Clerkin: A Helping Hand

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.

Job well done

Job well done

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.

Conor McManus point

Conor McManus point

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.

Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke

Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke

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.

MONAGHAN HURLING

Dr Croke Cup

Dr Croke Cup

The words “Monaghan” and “hurling” don’t sit naturally together. Monaghan is a footballing county, although the Farney men have never succeeded in winning the Sam Maguire Cup. But after this evening’s result in the Allianz National League, when Monaghan were defeated by neighbours Cavan at Breffni Park, perhaps the time has come for a change! If you look closely enough at the reflection in the silver of the cup, you can see how I managed to include the Tipperary colours of my tie in the picture!

This afternoon during a visit to my mother-in-law in Castleblayney, which is also my mother’s home town, I was pleased to get an opportunity to see the spoils of Kilkenny’s hurling victories. There was the Liam McCarthy Cup, presented to the All-Ireland senior champions. Alongside it was the Dr Croke Cup, the trophy for the National Hurling League champions of 2012, having defeated Cork in the final (www.gaa.ie report).

National League Champions Kilkenny

National Hurling League Champions 2012 Kilkenny (gaa.ie photo)

The trophies came to Castleblayney in the custody of Kilkenny kit manager Denis “Rackard” Cody, an important member of the county’s backroom team. I did not get a chance to ask him if his nickname came from the famous Wexford hurlers! The cups were brought to Ulster with a purpose: to encourage the development of hurling at secondary school level. The under-12s and under-14s from Our Lady’s secondary school and their counterparts from East Cavan Gaels took part in a match and coaching session run by Cody.

Kilkenny GAA

Kilkenny GAA

He joined the Kilkenny set-up in 1977 and has served as kit manager for the past ten  years. He refereed 15 county finals in all grades, and officiated also at National League level. He was elected the first Mayor of Graignamanagh in 1982 (Kilkenny People). He brings his knowledge and passion for hurling around the country. In November he visited one of the cradles of hurling, the Glens of Antrim, as a guest of the Robert Emmet club in Cushendun and helped run an underage competition.

Hurling can continue to be successful in Ulster and can only benefit from the expertise of the Noresiders. Title holders Loughgiel Shamrocks from the Glens were playing this afternoon in an All-Ireland club semi-final, which ended in a draw after extra time and will have to go to a replay. I also recall walking through the grounds of UCD in Belfield, near the sports centre, when I spotted a young lad with a Monaghan GAA top…..carrying a hurley. Such a rare sight that I felt it necessary to go up to him and congratulate him on his perseverance!

WEEKEND OF SPORT

Rovers win Dublin derby

Rovers win Dublin derby

Two great results for two of my favourite football teams. A visit to Tallaght stadium in Dublin, my first of the new Airtricity Premier League season, was rewarded with a convincing 4-0 win by Shamrock Rovers over Shelbourne. Mind you, Shels did not help their cause by losing a player after only seven minutes. Goalkeeper Dean Delany was red-carded for a foul in the box on Billy Dennehy. Gary Twigg converted the spot kick. A back pass from Stephen Hurley drifted slowly towards the goal, ending up in the back of the net, much to the amusement of the home supporters in the 5,000 crowd. Kick-off had been delayed for ten minutes because of the number of spectators waiting to gain entry. President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins was in the stand. Will be interesting to see the replay on RTÉ’s Monday Night Soccer show.

SRFC 4 Shels 0

SRFC 4 Shels 0

A long-range strike from Ronan Finn just before half time made it 3-0. Shels continued to battle against the odds but Aaron Greene added another for the Hoops, who had Gary McCabe sent off for a second offence. So both sides in the Dublin derby were reduced to ten towards the end.By that stage the three points were already in the bag for the Hoops, who remain at the top of the table along with Sligo Rovers.

 

Jack  MIdson

Jack MIdson

 

Less then 24 hours later I was delighted to see another 4-0 scoreline, this time in favour of AFC Wimbledon who were at home to Burton Albion. A badly needed three points to keep the Dons clear of the relegation zone in npower League 2, their first season back in the Football League. Glad to see Jack Midson is still sharing the top spot for goalscorers in the division with 18 goals. After the soccer, it was time to switch my attention to the RaboDirect PRO12 rugby matches involving the Irish provinces. On Friday night in a sell-out match at the RDS (coinciding with the Tallaght match) Leinster lost by a single point against the Ospreys, 22-23. Tommy Bowe was rested by the Welsh side but turned up as a guest on RTÉ’s Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor. Looking forward to seeing Tommy back in action for Ulster next season! Listening to some of the Ulster match away to Treviso the news was not good but by the time I got round to checking the result I was delighted to see that a last gasp try by Ian Whitten had secured a 23-27 victory. There was also time to watch the first half of the Connacht match against Munster shown live on TG4. An impressive performance by Connacht for forty minutes but not enough to match the strength of the visitors who went on to win 16-20. Finally some GAA thoughts. On Sunday I was anxious to see how the Monaghan footballers would do in their Allianz National Football League division 2 match against Galway. Monaghan lost home advantage because of the ugly scenes at Clones at a previous match and they had to play the game at a neutral venue at Pearse Park in Longford. The Farney men went down by 0-12 to 1-14 (17 points) and are now in danger of being relegated to division 3 next season. That would be a terrible shame as there are still some great footballers on the team. One of them is Paul “Jap” Finlay from Ballybay, profiled in this excellent piece by Keith Duggan on Saturday in the Irish Times.