November 13, 2009
AIB ULSTER CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP
Clontibret (Monaghan) 0-10
Dromore (Tyrone) 0-8
Clontibret staged a magnificent rearguard action in a close finish to hold out for a deserved victory over Tyrone champions, Dromore, to book their place in the semi-final of the Ulster club championship. Truth be told though Clontibret probably should have won this match by a greater margin as they were the more dominant team and played the more incisive football but they did not translate their superiority into scores at vital times when they were on top. That said though they were able to compensate for that with some disciplined defending and they repeatedly closed Dromore out especially in the final 20 minutes after the concession of three points from frees in a five minutes spell midway through the second-half brought Dromore right back into the contest.
Clontibret were never headed at any stage during this game with the accuracy of Conor McManus accounting for five points, Paul McGuigan and John Paul Mone registering two each and Fergal Mone registering the other.
A week is a long time in politics and a week is a long time in sport but the extra week worked to Clontibret's advantage after this game was postponed last Sunday due to inclement weather with Conor McManus sufficiently recovered from his wrist injury to take part and John Paul Mone knee injury had improved sufficiently for him to play a starring cameo role. Mone hit two inspirational points at the start of the second-half to push Clontibret four clear after Dromore had finished the first half quite well and when Conor McManus put them five in front after nine minutes the writing was on the wall for the Tyrone champions. To their credit they fought back brilliantly and pushed Clontibret all the way but ultimately the O'Neills possessed that little bit too much by way of reserves of strength, energy and inner belief and they held out for a deserved victory. Conditions were difficult with the ground soft underfoot which made for an energy sapping affair for the players and that allied to a greasy ball meant that both sides committed mistakes but overall they coped admirably.
Sound defensive work was the sheet anchor of this Clontibret performance with Dessie Mone and Martin Corey in particular outstanding at the back although Eoin Greenan and Darach Mooney repeatedly caught the eye. Vincent Corey and John Golden worked tirelessly in midfield while up front the accuracy of Conor McManus was crucial, Rodney Gorman beavered feverishly throughout and Anthony Rooney, Fergal Mone Brendan Magennis all had their moments. For Dromore Cathal McCarron at full-back put in a good hour's work, often driving forward along with Ryan McMenamin who was the catalyst for the Tyrone champions second-half resurgence. Barry Collins was always meaningfully involved in midfield while in attack they looked to Colm McCullagh and Eoin McCusker in particular to lead the charge. The game started at quite a pace with Clontibret first on the attack to earn a free but the angle proved too difficult for Conor McManus.
Clontibret opened their account through Fergal Mone in the third minute but by that stage they could well have had two or three points on the board and they found themselves two ahead with a point from Paul McGuigan that was awarded after referee Jimmy White consulted with his umpires. McGuigan converted a '45 in the ninth minute to put Clontibret three in front and three minutes later they were four in front when Conor McManus converted a free after the referee had spotted an off the ball foul on him as Clontibret built on a counter attack.
The final minute of the opening quarter saw Dromore open their account with a point by Sean O'Neill following good work by Michael Garry and Barry Collins and they might well have had a second three minutes later but Eoin McCusker's effort was just outside the post. A trademark counter attack by Clontibret ended with Conor McManus restoring his side to a four points lead in the 23rd minute with Dromore then striking for two points inside four minutes, both by Eoin McCusker, one from a free, to reduce the deficit to two although at the other end Clontibret saw an effort by Paul McGuigan drop short to the keeper. Conor McManus converted a free for a foul on Fergal Mone a minute into stoppage time with Colm McCullagh responding for Dromore in the 34th minute, also from a free, to leave the half-time score, Clontibret 0-6, Dromore 0-4.
With just two points separating the sides Dromore would have felt that they were well in the game particularly if they could put in a good start to the second-half.
However it was Clontibret who started the brighter with an opportunity point by John Paul Mone when he capitalised on broken play in the opening minute to push his side three in front. Dromore responded but one effort by Shaun O'Neill was badly off target and another attempt by Barry Collins fell short before John Paul Mone again struck with deadly effect in the sixth minute to edge Clontibret four clear. Again Dromore countered but the Clontibret defence swarmed in to break up a promising Dromore attack with Martin Corey breaking out to set up a counter attack that was helped on by Dessie Mone who was fouled with Conor McManus converting the free to put Clontibret five points in front.
Paul McElroy did well to take an effort from Dromore substitute Shane McMahon off the crossbar while at the other end a promising Clontibret attack did not produce a finish commensurate with the approach. Dromore were still struggling to create scoring chances against a very disciplined Clontibret defence but they lost their focus somewhat between the 17th and 22nd minutes to concede three frees, all of which were converted by Dromore, two by Colm McCullagh and one by Eoin McCusker to reduce the deficit to two with eight minutes of normal time remaining. That margin could have been reduced further when Barry Collins broke through but lost possession at the vital stage. Paul McElroy had to deal with a high centre by Ronan McNabb with Barry Collins off target after he was released from a quick free, chances that could have seen Dromore close the gap completely. With one minute of normal time remaining Dromore were reduced to 14 players with the second yellow card dismissal of Colm McCullough and never ends were raw as the game went into stoppage time and those two points still separating the sides.
With a minute of stoppage time played extra time looked a distinct possibility as Conor O'Neill and Ronan McNabb combined to create a chance for Eoin McCusker which he capitalised on well to reduce the deficit to the minimum and three minutes of additional time still to go. Ultimately though, they were unable to get that vital equalising point, as the Clontibret defence stood strong and they closed out victory with a point from a free by Conor McManus following a foul on Rodney Gorman to deservedly advance to the semi-final.
Teams and Scorers:
Clontibret: Paul McElroy, Colin Duffy, Colm Greenan, Eoin Greenan, Darach Mooney, Dessie Mone, Martin Corey, Vincent Corey, John Golden, Brendan Og Magennis, Paul McGuigan 0-2 (1f), Anthony Rooney, Fergal Mone 0-1, Conor McManus 0-5 (4f), Rodney Gorman. Subs: John Paul Mone 0-2 for C Greenan, Michael Hughes for JP Mone, Noel Morgan for P McGuigan.
Dromore: Peter Ward, Fabian O'Neill, Cathal McCarron, Colm Donnelly, Kevin Donnelly, Ryan McMenamin, Sean O'Neill 0-1, Michael Garry, Barry Collins, Conor O'Neill, Colm McCullagh 0-3 (3f), Paddy Montague, Shaun O'Neill, Eoin McCusker 0-4 (2f), Ronan McNabb. Subs: Shane McMahon for K Donnelly, Kevin O'Brien for M Garry, Emmet O'Neill for P Montague, Sean McNabb for E O'Neill.
Referee: Jimmy White (Donegal).
There was an element of relief in the Clontibret camp at the final whistle on Sunday last as they withstood a late Dromore resurgence that might at least have put the issue to extra time.
Team manager Declan Brennan was quick though to pay tribute to his players for the great character they had shown in a difficult contest on a difficult day and felt that they fully deserved their victory and possibly should have won it by a little more. In contrast the Dromore manager Seamus Goodwin was disappointed and not only at losing but he was also disappointed at the level of performance that his side produced with too many players on the team not playing up to scratch. He was though fulsome in his praise for Clontibret and the level of performance that they produced and felt that the Ulster title was well within their grasp.
Clontibret manager, Declan Brennan, had just seen his team hold out for a hard earned victory and he readily agreed that there is no substitute for hunger, hard work, commitment and spirit in games like that and Clontibret needed all of those in spades to get over the challenge of Dromore on Sunday last. "There is no doubt about it, all of the lads dug very deep especially in the last 20 minutes to earn this victory.
We got on the ball a lot but I suppose overall it wasn't happening for us, although at certain times in spells like that period just after half-time we got it going and hit three points in a row and that definitely helped us. And we needed that before the end because the heavy going was certainly dragging everyone down, the legs were getting very tired and that applied to both teams. At that stage quite honestly it came down to a battle of wills, that's what it was at that stage and we are just delighted that we came out on the right side of that".
The manager agreed that his side had started well and he also agreed that it was the Clontibret defence that really formed the foundation for this victory. "Yes I would have to agree with that and in fairness the boys all came up to the mark today in general but over the year there have been different fellows in different ways who have thrown themselves into games, thrown their hearts at it. I was pleased with the way they made key decisions at certain times, they didn't give the ball away but then when the legs tired there at the end it could have gone either way but it worked out for our lads and the defence was again seen to be very strong there at the finish".
This game was to have been played on Sunday November 1st but fell victim to the weather and Declan Brennan agreed that the extra week had probably worked better for Clontibret maybe than other clubs in competitions because he stated quite openly that if the game had been played on its original date that neither John Paul Mone or Conor McManus would have played. In fact he went on to say that they probably shouldn't have played on Sunday last either but they did and both had a major influence.
"John Paul Mone would definitely not have played last week and I suppose I have to say in all fairness that he should not have been playing today either. Conor McManus is a similar case and he is just a credit with his attitude. People may have thought that we were trying to pull a fast one regarding Conor McManus's injury. I can assure you we were not. Conor McManus is injured, Conor McManus carried the injury into today's game but I can be very honest and say that Conor McManus demanded to play today. I suppose it's my job to decide whether he plays or not but he really wanted to play and we needed him, we knew we needed him, especially for the frees today and that's what he was there for". Clontibret had made a good start to the game and probably should have been further ahead at half-time although things looked good in the early stages of the second-half when John Paul Mone hit two inspirational points and McManus converted another free for a five points lead but for the final 10 minutes Clontibret were forced to dig deep again. "Yes we did have to dig deep and in fairness to the lads they did because we were planted in our own territory there for long spells and Colm McCullagh was also causing us problems but in saying that when the ball went into the danger area we handled it well, we took the ball out to the wings and we worked well but we had to because we were pushed all the way".
ULSTER IS THERE FOR CLONTIBRET.
Dromore manager Seamus Goodwin had seen his charges installed as Ulster club championship favourites once they came out of Tyrone but they went the way of quite a number of other Tyrone champions over the years in the Ulster club series, going out and perhaps not doing themselves justice on the day. The manager was visibly and understandably disappointed. He agreed he was disappointed at losing, as he said "people always are" but when asked if he was more disappointed with his team's overall display he had this to say. "I would be I suppose because I think it's fair to say that we did not play to the best of our ability today and in most positions we could have played a lot better than we did.
Conditions were difficult, yes, but they were difficult for both teams but Clontibret made it very hard for us because they worked so hard all over of the park but at the end of the day we can have no complaints". The Dromore boss also agreed that conditions had contributed to the series of errors that he saw players on his side commit throughout which added to the sense of frustration but conditions did not cost them the game. "Yes that's true it did affect the standard of play, passes went astray and balls were fumbled and making mistakes like that in a big game like this can have a serious bearing on the game. One mistake can actually cost you a game like that, the club championship matches are generally that close".
The first quarter was almost gone before Dromore scored their first point and Seamus Goodwin agreed that he was a little bit concerned at that stage. "We certainly were concerned because we didn't start all, we didn't get out of the blocks the way we had hoped to get out and get a good start and get scores on the board early, but we didn't do that and Clontibret opened a three points lead.
Towards the middle of the first half we started coming into it and we got a few points of the board and when we went in at half-time we were only two points down. At that stage we were probably happy enough to be just two points down having played as poorly as we had so at half-time we were still well in it".
The manager agreed though that Clontibret got the start to the second-half that his side needed and they were chasing the game thereafter. "Yes, Clontibret came out very sharp and they were going really well, their work rate is tremendous, I really have to hand it to them as their work rate is so high and I have to hand it to them because at the end of the day it's all about work rate. I suppose it comes down to the fact that on the day they worked harder than us and they got the result because of that. We were hopeful of doing well in Ulster this year because we believed Ulster was wide open.
I still believe it's open and its there for any of the teams that are left in at. We thought we were as good as anyone else and that we had as good a chance as anybody else so it's so disappointing that we didn't play up to our potential today but fair play to Clontibret they deserved to win it and we really can't have any complaints. Ulster is there for Clontibret now".
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