Ulster Football semi-final: Derry overcome Monaghan to make Clones decider

Derry produced another devastating performance to reach a first Ulster final since 2011 with three killer goals to sink Monaghan in Armagh.

Monaghan raised their levels in the second half but Derry’s 3-12 to 0-17 win was every bit as emphatic as their stunning victory over Tyrone.

Benny Heron scored a goal in each half after Gareth McKinless hit the first major for Derry early on.

Derry’s reward is a decider against Donegal on 29 May.

The Oak Leafers secured back-to-back Ulster Championship wins for the first time in 11 years. Derry led 2-7 to 0-6 at the interval after a first half when they were brimming with conviction and verve.

Monaghan reduced the deficit to three points on two occasions in the second half but could not get closer and Derry had enough energy levels to see them through a frantic period of the match.

Oak Leafers blast out of the traps

Monaghan would have been braced for another whirlwind start from Derry and would have planned how to contain them – but whatever the plan was, it unravelled fast.

They should have been ready for what Derry were about to throw at them but were subdued and lacked cohesion in attack.

Just as they did against Tyrone, Derry came out full of purpose with McKinless again carrying the early fight.

His goal after 12 minutes put Derry 1-2 ahead, a brilliant fizzing shot from Ethan Doherty’s pass that gave Rory Beggan no chance, before Jack McCarron’s free finally got Monaghan on the board.

Already the system failure lights were flashing for Monaghan.

All over the field Derry players were winning their individual battles with Brendan Rogers dominating Gary Mohan in the air, Conor Doherty on top against Ryan McAnespie, McKinless bossing Shane Carey and Shane McGuigan getting the better of Dessie Ward.

But it wasn’t just those match-ups. It was happening everywhere with Derry happy to wait and then strip Monaghan of the ball.

Then once they broke, Derry were ruthless with their shot selection and execution flawless. Niall Loughlin and McGuigan danced and weaved their way though with an ease that seemed to surprise Monaghan.

Their second goal was an example of their control and poise.

Odhran Lynch’s superb pass to Niall Toner created the opportunity – Toner waited on Heron to get into the red zone before burying the ball past Beggan.

Monaghan took on low percentage shots and lacked belief with some of the easier chances.

They had 11 shots at the posts before scoring one from play – taking all of 32 minutes before Conor McCarthy ended the misery. Conor McManus ended a subdued first half with a first from play to reduce the deficit to 2-7 to 0-6.

Derry also led by seven against Tyrone at half time two weeks ago, and the same outcome looked likely.

Farney fightback

Understandably, given the trojan effort they put into the first half, Derry’s levels dipped in the second half.

But it coincided with a much-improved Monaghan performance and they came at Derry with intensity for the first time in the game.

They scored five of the opening six points after the break with sub Andrew Woods pointing after 25 seconds to set the tone.

McManus and McCarron scored from placed balls but wrong options continued to haunt Monaghan with Ward botching a goal chance before later making amends with a good point.

Emmett Bradley scored an inspirational point, leaving Conor Boyle trailing in his wake, to spark Derry into life again.

Conor McCluskey cut Monaghan open again through the middle but Beggan saved the shot. It was brief respite as an unerring McGuigan nailed the ’45’.

Twice Monaghan pegged Derry back to within three points with Lynch coming under increasing pressure to find his men from long kickouts.

But Heron’s second goal, Derry’s third, was the decisive blow in the 61st minute.

He took out two defenders when cutting inside and despite Ryan Wylie’s attempted block, the Ballinascreen man blasted the ball high into the roof the net to extinguish any Monaghan hopes of staging a late rally.

Derry have now taken out two Division One teams on their way to the decider and Ulster final specialists Donegal – appearing in their 10th provincial decider in the last 12 years – stand in their way of a first Anglo Celt triumph since 1998.

On the evidence of the last two showings, Rory Gallagher’s side will travel to the final with confidence they can end that long wait.

Monaghan: R Beggan; K Duffy, D Ward (0-1), R Wylie; M Bannigan, C Boyle, C McCarthy (0-1); S Carey, N Kearns (0-1); K Hughes, R McAnespie (0-1), D Hughes (0-1); J McCarron (0-4, 3f), G Mohan, C McManus (0-7, 5f)

Subs: A Woods (0-1) for Carey (33), K O’Connell for Bannigan (33), D Garland for K Hughes (55), S Jones for Mohan (61), C Leonard for Boyle (70)

Derry: O Lynch; C McKaigue, B Rogers, P McGrogan; C McCluskey, C Doherty, S Downey; G McKinless (1-0), C Glass; Paul Cassidy (0-2), B Heron (2-0), E Doherty; N Toner (0-1), S McGuigan (0-7, 3f, one ’45’, one mark), N Loughlin (0-1)

Subs: E Bradley (0-1) for Loughlin (42), Padraig Cassidy for C Doherty (61), B McCarron for Toner (67), P McNeill for Downey (70), L Murray for Paul Cassidy (70)

Referee: D Gough (Meath)

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