Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney left nobody in any doubt about his feelings after Saturday's Qualifier defeat at the hands of Mayo in Castlebar.
"I’m not going to sugar-coat things here. We are absolutely very disappointed. We think it was a stonewall penalty there at the end. We were robbed of a penalty, we were robbed of extra time, we were robbed of another opportunity. There’s no grey area.
"The Mayo penalty was touch and go. I’m 20 years managing teams and 15 years managing Monaghan, off and on, and never in my lifetime did I complain about a referee in my lifetime, but today was disgraceful.
"These were huge margins. We can manage, we can build a backroom team, we can get the best players in Monaghan to play football but we cannot legislate for that type of stuff."
McEnaney’s frustration revolved around some of the calls made and not made by referee Barry Cassidy at each end of a hard-fought, dour battle in the sunshine. Of course, Mayo had no such qualms as they set of on yet another adventure through the Qualifiers – was that ever in doubt?
The guests will wonder had they somehow insulted Lady Luck or even smashed a few mirrors on their trip west, such was their misfortune in the opening quarter. First Conor McManus was black-carded for what seemed like an innocuous foul on Aidan O’Shea and minutes later, the home side were awarded a penalty when Ryan Wylie blocked Oisin Mullin’s goal effort with his foot.
Both calls were probably correct, but that did little to sate the anger of the large Monaghan following in the crowd.
However, worse was to come for the Monaghan men in injury time at the end of the game. Trailing by three points, chaos ensued in the Mayo goalmouth, Conor Leonard went to ground and a penalty seemed imminently possible. It wasn’t awarded and Monaghan were incensed.
Back to the start of the game - the penalty, which was awarded, to Mayo was blasted to the roof of Rory Beggan’s net by Cillian O’Connor and Mayo made hay while Conor McManus was in the sin-bin. Monaghan had been two points clear at that stage thanks to early points from full-forward Gary Mohan, but by the time McManus came back, Mayo had raced into a 1-03 to 0-02 lead.
Oisin Mullin enjoyed the freedom of Castlebar while the Monaghan ace was in the stand and he attacked with great gusto, assisted by Paddy Durcan, Enda Hession, Diarmuid O’Connor and Eoghan McLaughlin.
However, the Monaghan men dug in and with Jack McCarron to the fore they were well in contention at the interval, trailing 0-07 to 1-07, with wind advantage to come.
The third quarter was a hard watch. Both sides huffed and puffed with very little end product. Cillian O’Connor kicked Mayo four clear in the first minute of the second half, but they went another 20 minutes without raising a flag. Monaghan only managed to kick two points during this time as good forward play was an absent friend.
The Ulster men were arguably the better team during this stagnant period but they couldn’t find the scores to reflect the fact and the Mayo half-back line repelled them time and time again. Eventually, Man of the Match, Lee Keegan pranced forward to kick Mayo three clear again after 56 minutes and Monaghan’s need for a goal was growing with every passing moment.
Their attacking plight was highlighted by the substitution of McManus late in the game as Darren McHale and Cillian O’Connor stretched Mayo five clear as six minutes of injury time began. However, the Ulster men refused to to give up. Conor Leonard and Shane Carey cut the gap to three, 0-12 to 1-12 with three minutes of injury time left to be played and then came the controversial moment.
A misplaced pass set hearts racing. Leonard gained possession, a phalanx of Mayo men descended upon him. He went to ground, no penalty was awarded. Mayo went down the field and Durcan kicked a point. Game over, controversy reigned supreme and McEnaney was about to articulate his county’s frustration.
Mayo: R Hennelly (0-01f); L Keegan (0-01), O Mullin, E Hession; P Durcan (0-01), S Coen, E McLaughlin (0-01); A O’Shea, M Ruane (0-01); B Walsh, A Orme, D O’Connor; J Carr, J Carney (0-01), C O’Connor (1-06, 0-5f)
Subs: K McLoughlin for Carr, D McHale (0-01) for Orme, C Loftus for Walsh, J Doherty for Carney, P O’Hora for C O’Connor
Monaghan: R Beggan; K Duffy (0-01), C Boyle, R Wylie; K O’Connell, D Ward, R McAnespie; D Hughes, N Kearns; C McCarthy (0-01), K Hughes, M Bannigan (0-01); J McCarron (0-03, 1m), G Mohan (0-02), C McManus (0-01f)
Subs: A Woods for K Hughes, C Leonard (0-01) for McCarthy, S Carey (0-02, 1f) for McManus, S Jones for Bannigan, F Kelly for D Hughes
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)