All-Ireland SFC Round Three
Donegal v Monaghan
Saturday, O’Neills Healy Park, 6pm (Live on GAAGO)
By Michael McMullan
WITH Clare gone from the race for Sam, there is safety attached to this group with everyone else in the hunt and yet there is plenty to play for.
It would take a few different scenarios, but Derry, Donegal and Monaghan can all top the group.
With the Ulster champions fancied to win in Longford against the Banner, it brings a greater consequence to this Ulster derby in Omagh.
A Donegal win would see them finish in second place with a third-place team from elsewhere coming to Ballybofey in the preliminary quarter-final.
Wins for Derry and Monaghan and it’s time to take out the calculator. After score difference comes total scored that currently has the Farney side three points ahead and in top spot. Next comes goals scored, followed by goals conceded. That’s the brass tacks.
The last time the counties met in championship action, it took a replay for Donegal to edge out then reigning Ulster champions Monaghan.
Eoghan Bán Gallagher, a 70th minute sub seven years ago, is the only player likely to start on Saturday. The other player, Patrick McBrearty, will almost certainly be kept in reserve for an impact.
Twelve of the Monaghan players on duty under Malachy O’Rourke remain from a team current manager Vinny Corey played on.
Fast forward to the present day and Monaghan have retained their Division One status and have bounced back from the hammering dished out by Derry in the Ulster semi-final.
Donegal were decimated. Nine of the players from the 2022 Ulster final defeat have been out of the equation with the recurrence of Jason McGee’s injury taking that to double figures.
Not many teams can motor on with even half that level of transition. Factor in the ongoing off the field saga with the academy and the audit report findings that came out this week. If had to have seeped into the camp in some part.
Donegal could’ve as easily beat Down in the championship but they lost. They travelled to Ennis to face Clare with confidence outside the camp very low.
They pulled a result out of the bag against a seasoned Banner outfit and can take plenty from their jostle with Derry.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the names Rory Beggan and Shaun Patton jump off the page. Speaking after Derry’s win in Ballybofey, Conor Glass commented on the challenge of playing against both ‘keepers within a matter of days.
It will be an interesting enough dynamic. Monaghan will have witnessed the panic Patton’s low trajectory drives over midfield can create and may opt to drop off to keep themselves safe to the route one method of attack
There is also the Oisin Gallen factor. Not many players get a that much possession off Chrissy McKaigue. Some of the Derry turnovers and a lack of sweeper gave his the room to weave his magic.
On the other hand, Karl O’Connell and Ryan McAnespie are key players Donegal need to box off. Eoghan Bán Gallagher’s game on Brendan Rogers see him pushed up on Karl O’Connell with Stephan McMenamin starting in defence.
Caolan McColgan’s match-up on Ethan Doherty was an excellent move by the Donegal management and with the ball he got on against Derry, he could well be the man for putting on Ryan McAnespie.
Putting the clampers on O’Connell and McAnespie won’t seal the deal but it would be a help.
In the probably absence of Jason McGee and with Beggan’s ability to kick long, it may take Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí into contention for a start. Added to Ciaran Thompson, Hugh McFadden and Caolan McGonagle, it could give Monaghan something to think about and arm Patton with more targets to ping towards.
Donegal’s game management and when to unleash McBrearty will be important. They got a lot right against Derry. When their skipper came on, they were asking plenty of questions but one Gareth McKinless run and the subsequent goal with Lachlan Murray’s first touch put a lid on their momentum within seconds.
Donegal’s 2020 win over Monaghan was the only victory in the last five meetings of the counties. There was a draw thrown in there too. One of the Farney wins was a rare fruitful away day in Ballybofey, though it’s no longer the fortress it once was.
It’s one step forward and one back for Donegal. The McGee injury will be a loss with Monaghan assembling some depth by keeping Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus in reserve.
This the proverbial anybody’s game and a draw isn’t out of the question. It might even come down to the input of Beggan versus Patton and who can repel the other.
Winning is a habit and Monaghan’s better form and their revival might see them as slight favourites, but there will be a twist or two yet before top spot is cemented.
2023 Monaghan 1-20 Donegal 0-15 (Clones)
MONAGHAN got off the mark in the NFL with a much-improved second-half performance.
Donegal led by the narrowest of margins at the end of an opening half where defences were on top, but with the breeze at their backs, Monaghan ripped up the script by adding 1-14 to their tally after the restart while only registering one wide during that time.
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-2f); T McPhillips, K Duffy (0-1); D Hughes; C Boyle, D Ward, R Wylie; K Lavelle, G Mohan; K Gallagher, M Bannigan (0-1), S O’Hanlon (0-3); S Carey (0-1); C McCarthy (0-1), J McCarron (0-7, 4f, 1m)
Subs: C Lennon for K Lavelle (INJ 19), S Jones (1-2) for C Carey (47), K O’Connell for C Lennon (58), C McManus (0-2m) for J McCarron (62), A Mulligan for C McCarthy (68)
Donegal: S Patton; M Curran, B McCole; C Ward; C McColgan, S McMenamin, EB Gallagher; C McGonagle (0-1), J McGee; C O’Donnell (0-3), D Ó Baoill (0-1), M Langan (0-4); H McFadden; O Gallen (0-5, 4f), J Brennan (0-1)
Subs: P Mogan for C McColgan (44), L McGlynn for C Ward (58), R O’Donnell for H McFadden (66), J McGroddy for J McGee (69)
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
2023 Monaghan 1-20 Donegal 0-15 – NFL Div 1
2022 Donegal 0-10 Monaghan 1-12 – NFL Div 1
2021 Donegal 1-20 Monaghan 4-11 – NFL Div 1
2020 Donegal 2-12 Monaghan 0-8 – NFL Div 1
2018 Monaghan 1-16 Donegal 1-10 – NFL Div 1
SEASON SO FAR
Down 2-14 Donegal 1-10
Monaghan 0-15 Donegal 2-7
Donegal 0-13 Kerry 1-9
Donegal 0-8 Tyrone 0-16
Monaghan 1-20 Donegal 0-15
Donegal 1-9 Galway 1-9
Mayo 1-17 Donegal 0-9
Roscommon 0-21 Donegal 0-9
Down 2-13 Donegal 1-11
Clare 0-9 Donegal 0-14
Donegal 1-15 Derry 3-14
Dr McKenna Cup
Down 2-10 Monaghan 0-12
Monaghan 0-15 Donegal 2-7
Armagh 1-14 Monaghan 1-12
Kerry 3-16 Monaghan 0-14
Monaghan 1-20 Donegal 0-15
Monaghan 0-14 Roscommon
Galway 1-13 Monaghan 0-10
Monaghan 0-13 Tyrone 2-15
Mayo 0-14 Monaghan 2-14
Monaghan 2-17 Tyrone 1-18
Derry 1-21 Monaghan 2-10
Derry 0-14 Monaghan 2-14
Monaghan 1-23 Clare 1-18
Oisin Gallen 1-24 (9f, 3m, 1 pen)
Conor O’Donnell 0-17
Ciaran Thompson 0-15 (5f)
Micheál Bannigan 0-34 (17f, 1 45)
Conor McManus 1-27 (1 pen, 17f, 4m)
Jack McCarron 0-26 (11f, 2m)
BOTH can still finish top of the group, but it will all depend on how Derry get on against a Clare team with only pride to play for. As it stands, Monaghan are top of the group by virtue of having scored more than Derry. It will be a day for fans checking Twitter.