Monaghan are moving on to the intermediate division courtesy of a two point junior final win over a defiant Celtics team that looked as if they were put away only to recover and make the last five minutes very interesting.
James Connolly and Lonan Maguire were the stars of the day. Maguire was all over the field, netting three points from play while also being denied a goal by a diving Kevin McArdle.
Connolly was always in front as a target man, and his passing was very intelligent while he also chipped in 1-4 from frees and play.
The game did have far too many off the ball incidents. At least four men could have and should have got the line. One did in the last few seconds. When the teams were not focused on the rough stuff the game was a very entertaining one.
The game opened rough before Anthony Holohan had the first score for Celtics after four minutes with a towering point. Kenny Cox followed with a goal when he reacted to a mix-up at the back to drive the loose ball to the net soccer-style a minute later.
Monaghan had their best period over the next 12 minutes. They had a goal from Connolly when a long ball from Nicky Scott was met by the full forward and punched to the net.
Maguire had two points in quick succession, both from the right wing when he moved forward to help out the attack. They also had two frees that hit the upright, with Brian Annette reacting quickest to the second before he was fouled in possession.
He was fouled for a penalty that Dave Harvey slotted easily to the net. It gave the Monaghan side a double score lead, 2-2 to 1-1 with 15 minutes gone.
Celtics reacted to it with a 1-1 reply with the goal coming from Dan O’Connell when he soloed 40 yards before he drove the ball into the roof of the net. An outstanding individual effort.
Again, however, Monaghan showed their dominance with two of the final three points of the half to again edge into the slimmest of leads. Scott had the first that was followed by a Connolly point. Connolly also hit the upright with a free.
Gary Nugent had the final point of the half to leave the interval score Monaghan 2-4 Celtics 2-3.
Monaghan continued their dominance with three points to open the second half. Scott had a brace, and he also had a glorious goal chance but drove into the side netting from 14 yards out when he linked with Connolly, who was causing a lot of problems and was showing constantly for the ball in front of his man.
While Holohan had a point for Celtics, it was quickly cancelled out by Connolly off the right foot to again put four between the sides with 16 minutes left in the final.
Fergal Mulvanney and Maguire added to it with points, and Monaghan seemed to be in cruise control.
The New York Celtics were far from finished however. With 10 minutes on the clock Richie Morgan soloed in from the right side and was pulled down for a penalty.
Holohan gave Sean McMullan no chance as he buried the ball in the right side of the net. After a fisted Connolly point and a long drive from Dessie Mallon, Holohan again went to work with a long range point from play.
When Keith Lang drilled a brilliant score from wide on the right it was now a three point game with six minutes left. Holohan had another score to pull the deficit even closer, but timely clearances by Monaghan with Eugene O’Hagan and Maguire quelled attacks.
They were starting to need a goal, but even Connolly was now in the rear guard to clog up the area and it worked.
The last minute of the game was marred by a nasty incident between the two benches with O’Connell getting a red, but it all started when a Monaghan sub got involved with a player on the field which didn’t help matters. That being said, Monaghan held on to secure their leap to the next level.
For the winners, Shaun Boyle, Caoimhin O’Callaghan and Lonan Maguire were all excellent at the back. O’Callaghan had a very good second half. Maguire was all over the shop and was in the man of the match ratings.
Monaghan just shaded the middle of the park with Dessie Mallon their most consistent over the hour. His point was a gem. Nicky Scott was tremendous, a very strong runner while also slotting three points.
James Connolly didn’t have the greatest day from frees but he more than made up for it with his open play. Fergal Mulvanny had an important point off the bench.
Celtics will look at the performances of Dan O’Connell and Anthony Holohan, who was outstanding with his kicking, as prominent. Richie Morgan was dangerous on the ball while Keith Lang certainly did well in his 20 or so minutes on the field.
The bracelet system didn’t work in this one. All players had them installed at the start to prove their legality to play in the game. In the second half it was hard to see even one Celtic player with a strap. Hard to fathom.
Certainly the officer of the day should have been involved, but it was difficult to tell who that was either.