Rank outsiders Monaghan stunned All-Ireland Champions Armagh with a well deserved 0-13 0-09 victory at Clones this afternoon. Few gave Monaghan a chance of coming away from this with anything but a defeat, with bookmakers making them the 10-1 outsiders. But Colm Coyle's men made a mockery of such predictions and set about their task early on, taking the game to Armagh from the first whistle.
In torrential conditions, Monaghan raced into a two-point lead, signalling their intent while the Ulster Champions struggled to find their mark, hitting early wides. However, The Orchard County soon hit back and stole into a 0-03 0-02 lead, before being pegged back to level terms with 20 minutes on the clock.
Steven McDonnell then wasted a golden opportunity to put the All-Ireland Champions in the driving seat with a goal when he contrived to hit the woodwork, after doing all the hard work and sneaking past the Monaghan defence.
Armagh were to come to regret that miss, as Monaghan began to take control of proceedings. Colm Coyle's men were fighting and scrapping for every ball and were gaining the upper hand in the midfield battle, while their accuracy in front of goal ensured that Michael Slowey's late point gave them a half-time lead of 0-06 0-04. And indeed it was a sign of exactly how much trouble Monaghan were causing The Orchard County when Oisin McConville was called off the bench and into action just before the break.
Monaghan then started the second half in the same way they finished the first, Paul Finlay - in outstanding form all afternoon - extended their lead to three points with a well taken free, and while Armagh hit back, Ray Ronaghan was then on the mark to re-establish the three point lead.
However, not everything was going the underdogs way and when Damien Freeman was harshly given his marching orders for two yellow cards, an Armagh comeback was on the cards. McIntee reduced the deficit to a single point as his side began to take control of the midfield and threatened to swamp their rivals.
Step forward Paul Finlay. Recently called up from the under-21 side, the youngster showed no sign of big-game nerves and proceeded to slot over a hat-trick of free-kicks to put his side back in the driving seat and gave them a four point lead before Philip Loughnane pounced on a loose ball to slot over and Armagh within a goal of their opponents.
That goal was never to materialise and with two minutes to go, the outstanding Finlay claimed his seventh point of the afternoon to put the game beyond Armagh, before putting the icing on the cake and adding another to his total in the dying minutes to seal victory.
Filed by Rob Wright