Monaghan opened their Ulster MFC title defence with a three-point victory over Down in Clones this evening.
Beaten by eventual winners Kerry at the All-Ireland semi-final stage last year with Mark Counihan since taking over the managerial reins from Seamus McEnaney, the Farney County ran out winners in this preliminary round clash on a scoreline of 1-13 to 1-10.
Trailing by 1-10 to 0-10 with seven minutes remaining, the holders reeled off the last four scores with Tiarnan Kierans netting the all-important goal to kickstart the late comeback at St Tiernach's Park.
The hosts led by 0-3 to 0-0 after 11 minutes thanks to points from Jason Irwin, Karl Gallagher and Shane Hanratty before Down fought back to level through efforts from Oisin Savage, Cian McLoughlin and Padraig Clancy. Irwin (free) and Sean Og McCusker traded scores before Ryan McGill grabbed the last point of the half to send the visitors into the break with a 0-5 to 0-4 lead.
Monaghan regained the lead through a Darragh Dempsey point in the 37th minute, but an Adam Crimmins goal three minutes later had underdogs Down 1-7 to 0-8 in front.
The Mourne boys then went four points clear thanks to points from John McGovern and Crimmins, but Monaghan never looked back after Kierans' 53rd minute strike restored parity as late points from Irwin, Diarmuid Marron and Liam McDonald earned them a meeting with Antrim in the next round.
Monaghan - J Kirk; S Slevin, R Boyle, S Hanratty (0-1); D Treanor, E Duffy, K Connolly; C McKernan, D Kerley; D Marron (0-1), K Gallagher (0-2), T Kierans (1-1); D Dempsey (0-2f), J Irwin (0-4, 3f), L McDonald (0-2f). Sub: D McCann for C McKernan.
Down - A Furlong; P McCarthy, S Donegan, R Campbell; R Magill (0-1), J Gray, D McMullen; P McEvoy, O Murdock; S McCusker (0-1), J McGovern (0-2), P Clancy (0-1); O Savage (0-3f), A Crimmins (1-1), C McLoughlin (0-1). Subs: T Magee for D McMullen, O Cunningham for P McEvoy.
Referee - P Clarke.Tweet