Monaghan 2-22 Down 0-09
Ulster champions Monaghan turned the style in the second half to rout Down by 2-22 to 0-09 in their Ulster SFC quarter-final clash at Clones.
Two Darragh O’Hanlon frees had Down 0-04 to 0-02 ahead at the end of the opening quarter, but Conor McManus converted five frees to send Monaghan in with a 0-9 to 0-6 interval lead.
Kieran Hughes smashed home a 57th minute goal and sub Owen Duffy added another near the end as the Farney men scored 2-13 to Down's 0-03 during the second half and set up a semi-final meeting with either Donegal or Fermanagh.
The notoriously competitive Ulster Championship has failed to live up to its billing this season, with all four games to date proving to be one-sided affairs. Fermanagh, Tyrone and Cavan all coasting to comfortable victories.
It all looked so promising for Down in the opening half. Their defensive set-up, clearly re-designed and re-calibrated since their ill-fated league campaign, repeatedly frustrated the home side and they broke at pace to create scoring opportunities.
Barry O’Hagan and Conor Maginn steered over early scores to settle Mourne nerves, and when Darragh O’Hanlon thumped over a couple of long range frees, they led by two midway through the opening half.
Kieran Hughes scored Monaghan’s two points during that spell, an out-of-sorts Farney attack failing to fire, with ace attacker Conor McManus well held by Gerard McGovern.
In fact, McManus didn’t get his hands on the ball until the 17th minute, when he shot a wide.
But the All-Star attacker was soon clipping the ball over the bar in familiar fashion, converting a string of frees to get his side into the groove.
Maginn sliced over a delightful point to bring the sides level for the fourth time in the 28th minute, but a couple of soft frees gave McManus the opportunity to send the Ulster champions in with a 0-09 to 0-06 interval lead.
Rory Beggan’s ability to vary his kick-outs gave Monaghan their first point of the second half, a monster punt deep into opposition territory setting up Ryan McAnespie for a tidy finish.
Down lost midfielder Peter Turley to a black card for a challenge on Darren Hughes as he drove deep into the Mourne defence.
The Farney men were now pressing much higher up the field, and reapng the benefits of a more offensive approach, with McManus curling over his first point from play and Karl O’Connell hitting another soon afterwards.
Darren Hughes was the driving force behind virtually every attack, punching another home in a retreating Down defence to send debut boy Conor McCarthy in to put six points between the sides.
McAnespie’s work rate also shone brightly, until he went off injured, as the experience of Malachy O’Rourke’s side finally started to show.
Goalkeeper Beggan thumped a couple of long range frees between the posts, and in the 57th minute Kieran Hughes collected a diagonal ball from the highly impressive Karl O’Connell to fire a bullet-like shot past Stephen Kane.
Down’s challenge was in tatters, and while they pulled back a couple of scores through O’Hare and Paul Devlin, there was to be a further setback when another surging run from Darren Hughes sent substitute Owen Duffy in for a clinical finish to the net.
Down were on the floor, and relentless Monaghan showed no mercy, feeling off another string of points, with veteran substitute Dick Clerkin becoming the 11th Farney player to get his name on the score -heet in stoppage time.
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-03, 2f, 1 ’45), C Walshe, D Wylie, R Wylie, D Mone, V Corey, K O’Connell (0-01), K Duffy, D Hughes, S Carey (0-01), D Malone (0-01), R McAnespie (0-01), C McCarthy (0-02, 1f), K Hughes (1-02), C McManus (0-08, 6f).
Subs: O Duffy (1-00) for McAnespie, F Kelly for Mone, P Finlay for K Hughes, D McKenna (0-02) for McCarthy, D Clerkin (0-01) for Corey, T Kerr for Carey
Down: S Kane, G Collins, G McGovern, D O’Hagan, D McKibbin, A Carr, D O’Hanlon (0-02, 2f), P Turley, K McKernan, C Maginn (0-02), M Poland (0-01), J Murphy, C McGovern, C Harrison, B O’Hagan (0-01).
Subs: D O’Hare (0-02, 1f) for B O’Hagan, H Brown for Turley (BC), P Devlin (0-01, f) for Murphy, J Flynn for McKibbin, R Mallon for Maginn
Referee: C Lane (Cork).