Football League Division One North: 'It was a mad game' - Monaghan's McCarthy after Donegal thriller

Conor McCarthy scored three goals for Monaghan in a devastating first-half display
Conor McCarthy scored three goals for Monaghan in a devastating first-half display

Farney forward Conor McCarthy says the 1-20 to 4-11 draw with Donegal was 'crazy' after he scored a hat-trick in the Division One North game.

McCarthy's 22-minute treble was not enough as Donegal produced a second-half fightback to draw.

"It was just a mad game and probably wasn't the template of Ulster games," said McCarthy.

"It was crazy and both teams had chances at the end to win the match but couldn't take them."

He added: "The message was to just take them on and I think our six forwards did that. From the games we've seen teams are starting to play that bit more expansively."

Michael Langan netted for Donegal after McCarthy's third while Conor McManus' goal established a six-point lead for Monaghan before the home side's impressive comeback late on.

Both sides ended the game with 14 men after red cards for Monaghan's Conor Boyle and Donegal sub Daire O'Baoill.

Despite a desperately poor defensive display in the first half leaving them with a five-point deficit, Donegal demonstrated impressive resilience to dominate the away side in the second half and restore parity in the 69th-minute through Patrick McBrearty, who hit eight points to help earn Declan Bonner's side an unlikely draw.

The result leaves Donegal top of Division One North on three points with Monaghan third having accrued one point from their opening two games.

After a breathless and free-flowing start which saw the sides trading six well-taken scores, Donegal were forced to contend with the sight of captain Michael Murphy exiting the field in the fourth minute having pulled up with an injury to what looked like his left thigh.

Given Murphy's talismanic status, it was an early test for Bonner's men, and one they struggled to adapt to as Monaghan capitalised on a slew of Donegal wides by creating goal chances with seemingly every attack.

McCarthy hat-trick puts Monaghan in ascendancy

Key to the Farney men's ruthlessness up top was McCarthy, who ran the Donegal defence ragged in an imperious display of marksmanship with the Scotstown corner-forward spinning away from Neil McGee and rounding Donegal stopper Shaun Patton before slotting home his first goal.

There was a suggestion that McCarthy had fouled the ball before converting but referee Barry Cassidy saw nothing amiss.

Boyle's black card threatened to derail Monaghan's attack-happy approach, but aided by the outstanding half-back pair of Karl O'Connell and Ryan McAnespie, the visitors continued to tear the Donegal defence apart with alarming ease as McCarthy added his second goal on 17 minutes, calmly stroking the ball into Patton's bottom left-hand corner after O'Connell's lung-busting surge upfield.

Donegal captain Michael Murphy was forced off with an injury after just five minutes
Donegal captain Michael Murphy was forced off with an injury after just four minutes

Four minutes later, McCarthy completed his hat-trick in style with a swift change in direction allowing him to elude three Donegal challenges before finishing with a left-footed drive to increase Monaghan's lead to nine.

And while Donegal's first-half display was marred by profligacy with six wides, Monaghan were guilty of passing up gilt-edged goal chances with Sean Jones forcing a save from Patton before Stephen O'Hanlon rifled a left-footed shot into the side-netting and O'Connell fired over when he should have been hitting the back of the net.

Having managed to largely suppress a dangerous-looking Tyrone attack in Omagh last week, Donegal came up against a Monaghan side full of pace, endeavour and enterprise, a deadly combination to which last year's beaten Ulster SFC finalists had no reply.

McManus, introduced at half-time for the second week running, made no mistake in adding an easy fourth Monaghan goal after O'Hanlon's driving run and hand-pass, but Niall Kearns would later spurn a great goal chance when his chip over Patton came back off the crossbar.

McBrearty inspires Donegal comeback

Having been outfoxed by Monaghan in the first half - Langan's hammered right-footed finish a rare highlight for the hosts - Donegal responded valiantly after the break.

With McCarthy tightly marked in the second period, Donegal were free to flex their attacking muscles and did just that with Ciaran Thompson's peach of a score - which reduced the deficit to six - acting as the catalyst for a second-half scoring burst from the hosts.

Undeterred after O'Baoill's second yellow for a foul on McManus, Patrick McBrearty added a couple of points before Niall O'Donnell and Thompson scores kept Donegal in it before a McManus free.

Then, after Aaron Mulligan had given Monaghan a four-point lead with six minutes remaining, Donegal rallied with Niall O'Donnell, Thompson and McBrearty (2) all raising white flags to level matters.

There was more drama, however, when Kilcar man McBrearty and Mulligan both failed to find a winner in a frenetic, nail-biting finale.

Donegal travel to Armagh next week with Monaghan facing a must-win trip to Tyrone.

Donegal: S Patton; E Ban Gallagher (0-2), N McGee, B McCole; P Brennan, R McHugh, P Mogan (0-1); H McFadden, C McGonagle (0-1); N O'Donnell (0-2), C Thompson (0-2), M Langan (1-1); P McBrearty (0-8, 3f), M Murphy, O Gallen (0-3).

Subs: D O Baoill for Murphy 4, E McHugh (0-1) for P Brennan half time, O McFadden for H McFadden 45, S McMenamin for N McGee 53, P McGrath for E Ban Gallagher 60, J McGee for McCole 61

Monaghan: R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; K O'Connell (0-1), K McMenamin, R McAnespie (0-1); D Hughes, K Lavelle; S O'Hanlon, A Mulligan (0-3, 2f), M Bannigan (0-2, 1f); C McCarthy (3-1), A Woods (0-1), S Jones

Subs: C McManus (1-2, 2f) for Jones half time, S Hanratty for Bannigan 42, N Kearns for Woods 52, J McCarron for O'Hanlon 57, C Lennon for O'Connell 57; G Mohan for Mulligan 74

ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE RESULTS/FIXTURES

Saturday

Division One North
Donegal1-20Monaghan4-11
Armagh2-10Tyrone2-15
Division Two North
Westmeath2-12Mayo0-21
Division Two South
Laois0-10Cork2-12
Division Three North
Derry5-13Fermanagh0-09
Cavan1-19Longford1-13
Division Three South
Offaly0-16Limerick1-11
Tipperary2-12Wicklow1-12
Division Four South
Wexford0-18Waterford2-13

Sunday

Division One South
DublinvKerryThurles - 13:45
GalwayvRoscommonPearse Stadium - 14:00
Division Two North
DownvMeathAthletic Grounds - 15:45
Division Two South
KildarevClareNewbridge - 14:00
Division Four North
AntrimvSligoCorrigan Park - 16:00
LeitrimvLouthCarrick-on-Shannon - 15:00