Monaghan 1-11 Donegal 0-13

Monaghan survived a spirited comeback to win their first Dr McKenna Cup title in 19 years as they edged out Donegal at O'Neill's Healy Park.

But they will be concerned at the manner in which they allowed a nine-point lead to slip away, before getting over the line by a whisker.

Donegal lacked direction and leadership until Michael Murphy came off the bench at the interval, hitting six second-half points to lead his side’s fightback, but they fell just short.

For Seamus McEnaney and his side, this was a useful run-out on the pitch where they will face All-Ireland champions Tyrone in their opening league game next weekend, when they will hope to have ace attacker Conor McManus available for the first time this year.

Dessie Ward thundered through to pick up Jack McCarron's exquisite pass and rifle home a fourth-minute goal that set the Farney men up.

It was the perfect end to a counter-attacking move that summed up their approach, defending in numbers to frustrate the advancing Donegal men and breaking at pace.

Fintan Kelly of Monaghan (L) is challenged by Ciaran Thompson

The theme continued throughout the first half, with Monaghan turnovers setting up the raids upon which they built a healthy lead.

Donegal did have a goal chance when Paddy McBrearty’s accurate pass sent Ciaran Thompson in, but his effort was comfortably saved by Rory Beggan.

McBrearty’s second point kept his side in touch, but scores from Michael Bannigan and Shane Carey had Banty McEnaney’s side four ahead at the 20-minute mark.

And they were growing in confidence, with the defensive efforts of Ryan Wylie and Kieran Duffy well supported by many willing hands.

Donegal continued to misfire and to run into dead ends, managing just a Charles McGuinness free in the final 15 minutes of the half, while the Farney men pushed on with delightful scores from Andrew Woods and Carey to lead by 1-07 to 0-04 at the break.

Declan Bonner, who had been ordered off the sideline and into the stand by referee Padraig Hughes as frustrations boiled over approaching the interval, introduced Michael Murphy as part of a triple half-time substitution in an attempt to spark his side into life.

Initially, the presence of the great man failed to bring any cohesion to his side’s attacking effort, and Monaghan continued to keep the score-board ticking, scores from Bannigan, with two frees, and Colin Walsh stretching the advantage to nine.

Slowly Donegal began to show some resistance and a couple of Murphy frees and a Ryan McHugh effort narrowed the gap to six by the second drinks break.

Donegal's Paddy McBrearty tries to evade Gary Mohan

A run of five points on the spin saw McBrearty narrow the deficit to four, and Donegal were more solid at the back, with Caolan Ward, McHugh and Brendan McCole all putting in telling challenges as Monaghan were held scoreless for 18 minutes before McCarron landed a free.

Donegal, with Murphy a central figure and focal point up front, responded immediately, three more points from their inspirational leader inched them closer.

Michael Langan was also on target, but Monaghan held out for the silverware and a winning start to 2022.

Monaghan: R Beggan; S Hanratty, K Duffy, R Wylie; R McAnespie, C Walsh (0-01), C McCarthy; D Hughes, K Lavelle; S Carey (0-02), M Bannigan (0-05, 3f), D Ward (1-00); A Mulligan, J McCarron (0-02, 2f), A Woods (0-01).

Subs: N Kearns for Lavelle (h-t), D garland for Carey (h-t), K O’Connell for McCarthy (43), F Kelly for Walsh (43), C Boyle for Wylie (54), D Wylie for Hughes (54), G Mohan for Woods (57), Mealiff for Mulligan (70)

Donegal: M Lynch; C Ward, B McCole, E Ban Gallagher; R McHugh (0-01), P Brennan, T McClenaghan; J McGee, C Thompson (0-01); O McFadden Ferry, P Mogan, S O’Donnell; P McBrearty (0-03, 1f), C McGuinness (0-01, f), C O’Donnell.

Subs: M Murphy (0-06, 5f) for McGuinness (h-t), E O’Donnell for O’Donnell (h-t), C McGonagle for Brennan (h-t), N O’Donnell for C O’Donnell (48), M Langan (0-01) for McGee (51), J McKelvey for McClenaghan (53), E Doherty for McFadden Ferry (57)

Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).