IFC Final: Monaghan Harps v Drumhowan

October 20, 2009
MC GUIGAN BUILDERS INTERMEDIATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL. Monaghan Harps 1-10 Drumhowan 0-10 A resurgent Monaghan Harps staged a strong second half performance to clinch the intermediate football championship title at the expense of Drumhowan in this entertaining if at times scrappy encounter that was played in somewhat greasy conditions in Clontibret on Sunday last. A goal by substitute Stephen Creighan within seconds of his introduction some 10 minutes into the second half was the score that ultimately clinched the title for the county town side. It was a real turning point in the contest and came at a time when Monaghan Harps needed a major boost having struggled for most of the first half. It was a score that galvanise their efforts and they set to with a will for the remainder of the game as they defended in numbers and broke on counter attacks for vital scores that kept the game out of Drumhowan's and reach. In the early stages Drumhowan had been the more dominant team and a good period between the eighth and 20th minutes of the first half when they hit five points without reply helped them to a three points half-time lead, Drumhowan 0-8, Monaghan Harps 0-5. Monaghan Harps, who had been playing second fiddle for most of the first half were a transformed team on the resumption and they set about redressing the situation. Two points from frees in the opening three minutes had the margin down to the minimum and then Creighan struck for the only goal of the game some 10 minutes in when he got a fist to a cross by Stephen McAleer to give Monaghan Harps a lead they never subsequently relinquished. From there to the finish Monaghan Harps defended in numbers to frustrate Drumhowan's best attempts and they restricted them to a mere two points in the second half although Drumhowan felt somewhat aggrieved at the finish as they felt they had a legitimate penalty claim turned down in stoppage time as the Harps held out in a frenetic finale. Stephen Driver put in a great performance at full-back for Monaghan Harps and got excellent support from the lively Mark McCaughey and Conor Galligan. Neil McAdam,who picked up the man of the match award, was used in a number of roles most notably as an extra attacker in the early stages and Stephen McAleer was a real powerhouse in midfield. Shane Smith worked extremely hard in the attack but only one of their starting six forwards got on the score sheet, Donal Hahessy with six points, all from frees. That said though Nicholas Scott, Dean Fanning and David Hughes all worked hard and were willing to do the spadework to the advantage of others. For Drumhowan this was a game where they only produced the necessary performance in the opening half and they then allowed Monaghan Harps to dictate both the tactics and the play. Dermot McDermott and James McElroy worked hard in midfield although McElroy never imposed himself to the extent that he can and will be disappointed in that regard. The halfback line of Kevin Mooney, Damien Duffy and Niall Mooney were a force in the first half but thereafter were pinned into their own defence for long periods in the second-half thereby starving the Drumhowan attack of the supply they had enjoyed earlier. Stephen McGinnity used all his experience to good effect in winning possession and distributing the ball while David Millar showed some nice touches and scored two excellent points from play. Overall though Drumhowan will be disappointed at the manner in which they allowed this game to slip away although they were somewhat incensed at the finish when they felt they had a very legitimate penalty claim ignored. Conditions were difficult, foot work uncertain, with a greasy ball which did lead to mistakes by both sides but ultimately the conditions did not decide the outcome but at times both sides tended to play football that was more suited to a dry day. Drumhowan were first off the mark when Colm Lambe converted a free after he himself had been fouled in the opening minute but within a minute Shane Coyle came on a strong run from midfield to bring Monaghan Harps level. Dermot McDermott was off target from a '45 in the fourth minute with Monaghan Harps then taking the lead when Donal Hahessy converted a free after Neil McAdam, who was pushing forward at this stage, had been fouled. Drumhowan were back level in the eighth minute though when James McElroy converted a free for an off the ball foul that was spotted on Stephen McGinnity as Drumhowan came on a counter attack. Monaghan Harps now saw an excellent chance to regain the lead just after that when Stephen McAleer, Shane Coyle and Donal Hahessy combined to release Coyle who flashed a shot across the Drumhowan goals but was narrowly wide. Drumhowan re-took the lead in the 10th minute with a good point from Kevin Mooney assisted by Damien Duffy and Stephen McGinnity. Monaghan Harps though came straight back on the attack and the Drumhowan defence was now seen to good effect while poor shooting saw efforts by David Hughes and Shane Coyle both off target. Entering the second quarter Drumhowan were now imposing themselves to greater effect with Ciaran Mooney placing David Millar for an excellent point in the 17th minute to put the Geraldines two in front. A minute later they were three in front as pressure by their forwards saw Monaghan Harps unable to clear their lines and they conceded a free for over carrying which was pointed by James McElroy. Drumhowan could well have extended their lead further at this stage but Colm Lambe was off target before Ciaran Mooney raced through to fist over an excellent point in the 20th minute to put his side four in front. Monaghan Harps now lifted the siege and a long ball in to Ashley White saw him fouled and Donal Hahessy converting to reduce the deficit to three. Another Monaghan Harps attack saw Dean Fanning and David Hughes working well together to create the chance for Emmet McArdle and he reduced the deficit to two with seven minutes of normal time remaining in the first half. With five minutes remaining Drumhowan had retaken a four points lead with excellent scores from Colm Lambe in the 24th minute, following good work by Martin McElroy and David Millar, with Millar himself then drilling over an excellent score in the 25th minute when he was well placed from a line ball by Dermot McDermott. Going into stoppage time Monaghan Harps were exerting pressure but again poor finishing and being forced to shoot under pressure saw two chances off target before Donal Hahessy converted another free a minute into stoppage time to leave three between the sides at the break, Drumhowan 0-8, Monaghan Harps 0-5. The pace of the game and the intensity of the exchanges quickened considerably on the resumption and within three minutes of the restart Monaghan Harps had the margin down to the minimum with two points from frees by Donal Hahessy, the first for a foul on Dean Fanning and the second from what Drumhowan felt was a harsh call on full back Liam McGuirk. Two missed chances, one from a free by James McElroy still left the margin at the minimum with an effort by Shane Smith then leading to a debate between the referee and his umpires, one signalling a point, the other a wide, but ultimately the effort ruled out by the referee. A promising Monaghan Harps attack was halted when Emmet McArdle was pulled for over carrying but 10 minutes into the second-half came the real turning point and the defining moment in its intermediate final. Stephen Creighan had just been introduced as a substitute for Ashley White and within seconds of his introduction Stephen McAleer drove down the right wing and sent in a cross that Creighan got a touch to, to the guide the ball past Enda Duffy and put Monaghan Harps two points in front. By the 15th minute Drumhowan could well have been level but were off target twice in quick succession before James McElroy reduced the deficit to the minimum in the 16th minute when he converted a free for a foul on Dermot McDermott, an indiscretion that saw David Hughes pick up yellow card. Monaghan Harps were now dictating matters increasingly but still found scores hard to come by. Nicholas Treanor tried his luck from distance but was well wide before Stephen McAleer demonstrated how route one tactics were best in the prevailing conditions when he was released by Neil McAdam and raced through for an excellent score in the 17th minute to restore Monaghan Harps to a two points lead. Drumhowan were finding it increasingly difficult to make inroads into the Harps defence whose crowding tactics were proving difficult to counter. Darren Duffy along with Colm Lambe and Dermot McDermott set up a promising move that saw McDermott fouled out along the wing but Colm Lambe's effort from the free went wide off the upright, more or less summing up Drumhowan's increasing frustration. Another promising Drumhowan attacker was thwarted by Stephen Driver who set up a quick counter attack but the final effort from Nicholas Treanor dropped short to Drumhowan keeper Enda Duffy. Stephen McAleer and Neil McAdam were continually driving Monaghan Harps forward and it took an excellent block by James McElroy to deny McAdam for an abortive '45 and still only two points between the sides with five minutes of normal time remaining. Neil McAdam found himself in an attacking position again in the 26th minute and drew the foul that was converted by Donal Hahessy to give the Harps a three points lead. Staying on the offensive the Harps had Drumhowan under further pressure when Stephen Creighan raced on to a through ball, spotted Dean Fanning coming through to his right and gently toe poked the ball into Fanning's path but Enda Duffy took of a brilliant point-blank save to keep his side in the game at this stage. Almost immediately play swung to the other end with Stephen McGinnity, Colm Lambe and David Millar working the ball through and the Harps defence conceding a free that was converted by James McElroy to leave two points between the sides with two minutes of normal time remaining. Drumhowan no needed a goal if they were to salvage the situation and to their credit they threw everything into attack but Monaghan Harps held firm and then broke on a counter attack to earn a free that was converted by Nicholas Treanor with 30 seconds of normal time remaining to leave three points between sides at the finish. Drumhowan were visibly shattered at the finish and their misery was compounded when Stephen McGinnity was issued with a second yellow card just after the final whistle. Monaghan Harps now play the Antrim champions at an Antrim venue in the Ulster club series. Teams and Scorers: Monaghan Harps: Gerard Gilsenan, Mark McCaughey, Stephen Driver, Conor Galligan, Nicholas Treanor 0-1 (f), Neil McAdam, Emmet McArdle 0-1, Stephen McAleer 0-1, Shane Coyle 0-1, David Hughes, Shane Smith, Nicholas Scott, Donal Hahessy 0-6 (6F), Dean Fanning, Ashley White. Subs: Stephen Creighan 1-0 for A White, Peter Coyle for S Coyle, Gary White for E McArdle, Ciaran O'Connell for D Hahessy. Drumhowan: Enda Duffy, Darren Duffy, Liam McGuirk, Martin McElroy, Kevin Mooney 0-1, Damien Duffy, Niall Mooney, James McElroy 0-4 (4f), Dermot McDermott, Ciaran McElroy, Colm Lambe 0-2 (1f), Kieran Mooney 0-1, Stephen McGinnity, Christopher McGinnity, David Millar 0-2. Subs: Paddy Mulligan for C McElroy, Enda McElroy for C Lambe. Referee: Xavier Coyle (Tyholland). REACTION. It was understandable that there would be quite a divide between emotions in the two camps at the end of last Sunday's final, Monaghan Harps celebrating a great victory and promotion to senior ranks for 2010 while Drumhowan were utterly dejected with frustration bordering on anger at how things had panned out in the final stages of what had been a close contest all through. Drumhowan's dejection was understandable as they had been the dominant team in the first half, playing assured football, and also understandable in that they were frustrated with their own performance in the second period and a mere two points in the second-half is an indication of how matters had turned round. Drumhowan manager, Donal McAdam agreed that disappointment would not even begin to describe how he felt at the end of this very close contest. "After a game like that it is very hard to put into words and I suppose gut-wrenching is the best way I can describe it. We were in a good position at half-time but in the second half we didn't play as we should have and as we know we could have. Monaghan Harps upped their game and we couldn't get some of our key men into the match. That's it though but I simply have to say as well that we were very disappointed with some of the refereeing decisions in that match. I certainly felt we had a stonewall penalty there at the very end and there was a square ball incident at the other end earlier but we just didn't seem to get any of the calls today, so I'm very disappointed with that". Prior to the game the Drumhowan manager had spoken of the need for his side to produce a big performance and he felt that they did but only in the first half. He agreed that there level of performance fell off the scale in the second-half and that the goal was the vital score, a bad score to give away. "Yes goals are always vital, at the end of the day goals win championships and in the final analysis it was the vital score on the day. Having said that though, I have to say I'm very proud of the boys today. We are on the road now for over two years and they have emptied the tank for the club and for themselves in many matches. I am bitterly disappointed for them at the moment but we couldn't ask any more from them. I also have to say fair play to Monaghan Harps because on the day they took whatever advantage was going and they capitalised on the decisions they got and that's all part of football, they punished us when they got the chances and I wish them the best of luck". This was Drumhowan's second defeat in the intermediate football championship this year as they had to use the qualifier route to get through to the final with that one defeat earlier in the series also coming at the hands of Monaghan Harps, so did the manager feel maybe that the Harps had a psychological advantage going into the game. "No I don't think so, it probably made them slight favourites but we were happy to go into the game as underdogs and quite honestly I think that suited us better. It worked for us and we started off well but in the end we just didn't make and it's very disappointing and as I said there were a few decisions that left us even more disappointed". The victory sees Monaghan Harps promoted to senior for the 2010 season but Drumhowan could still make it through via the league route, although manager Donal McAdam was in no frame of mind to consider such things in the immediate aftermath of Sunday's defeat. "In the build-up to this game we were not even thinking of the league. I suppose we are in contention there but quite honestly we weren't thinking of the league at all, we just focused on the championship. There are league semi finals in a few weeks time but we'll probably take a week or so off and get back together then and see how we get on". HARPS MANAGER: DECLAN McARDLE. The mood in the Monaghan Harps camp was in total contrast as the players celebrated loudly with family and friends as well as club officers and mentors. Team manager Declan McArdle was understandably relieved and pleased that his side had come through but he agreed that the outcome had been in doubt for quite a time in what had been a close contest. "Yes, it was a very close call and we knew it was going to be tough because Drumhowan are a very good team, they are a strong team and they have won quite a lot of matches over the last couple of seasons. They are a good side and we knew we needed to be at our best if we were going to come through". The Monaghan Harps manager agreed that the first half had been a frustrating experience as his side failed to produce anything like their true form. "Yes we had a difficult first half and we discussed that at half-time and quite honestly we were saying it was time to either put up or shut up. We talked about what we needed to do if we were going to turn it around and fair play to the boys they brought their best game forward in the second-half". Declan McArdle agreed that the goal 10 minutes into the second half was the vital score, substitute Stephen Creighan on the field a mere 15 or 20 seconds when he got the vital touch. "Yes Stephen made the most of his chances but I have to say that we have a lot of good players in the Monaghan Harps club and some of them are unlucky not to be on the starting team. However you can only play the 15 that you can put out but that also leaves us in the happy position that when we are going to the bench we have very good players to call in". The Harps manager agreed that the goal was the catalyst for an even better performance in the final 20 minutes and he was very pleased with how everyone rallied to close the game out. "Goals can be like that and this one was, and when you get an advantage like that, especially in a final after you've been training for seven or eight or maybe nine months you can drive on after that. It would have been the same if Drumhowan had got the goal and we would then have been under serious pressure but luckily everything worked out right and we went on to record a great victory". Harps player Neil McAdam picked up the "Man of the Match Award" and the manager was keen to pay tribute to him for his contribution in a couple of roles during the game and particularly for his intelligent play. "Intelligent is just the word because he is a very brainy footballer. When you asked Neil about doing something in a game you don't have to spell it out for him, you just let him work at the particular task that he has been given and I have to say that he had a major influence on that match". The victory puts Monaghan Harps into senior ranks for next season but the Harps have been promoted to senior before and then inevitably found themselves back on the downward slope, so did the manager feel that this time around he had a group of players who could go up to senior and consolidate. "I suppose a little later we will have to sit down and discuss this and make sure that everyone understands what we are trying to do but to be honest all this work will not have been worthwhile if we don't progress and stay in senior ranks. Against that though different managers from years gone by have said the same thing and tried the same things but I have to say this is a good group of footballers so hopefully we will all persevere and keep Monaghan Harps in senior football where I believe they belong".

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