Monaghan and Tyrone set up final showdown
Monaghan and defending champions Tyrone will meet in the Power NI Dr. McKenna Cup final after taking victories in today's semi-final double header at the Athletic Grounds.
Monaghan, who last won the Ulster competition in 2003, beat Down 1-12 to 0-13 in the opener at the Armagh ground, with Conor McManus scoring the only goal of the game.
It was a close encounter throughout, Down edging into an early lead thanks to initial points from Connaire Harrison and Donal O'Hare.
McManus opened his account with two pointed frees but the Mourne men moved 0-5 to 0-2 ahead with Quinn, O'Hare and Mark Poland all on target.
Malachy O'Rourke's men went in front after McManus picked off his third point and then fired home his goal. He raised another white flag late in the half as Owen Duffy joined him on the scoresheet, but the sides were level - 0-8 to 1-5 - at the interval.
Points from O'Hare, Arthur McConville and Poland had moved James McCartan's side onto eight points, and they had the better of the early exchanges in the second period with Ryan Mallon and Poland both splitting the posts.
Indeed, Down led by a point on four separate occasions in the closing half. Danny Savage's point with three minutes left had them within touching distance of the win.
However, McManus brought his tally to 1-7 as he squared things up and then two long range efforts from Darren Hughes sealed it in injury-time for Monaghan.
Both sides had a player sent-off with Down's Keith Quinn earning his second yellow card in the 50th minute. Monaghan wing back Karl O'Connell also walked for his second bookable offence late on.
Meanwhile, Tyrone advanced to next Saturday's McKenna Cup decider on the back of a 2-9 to 0-7 semi-final defeat of Fermanagh.
A crowd of 4,155 spectators watched on as the Red Hands grabbed goals in each half through Plunkett Kane and Mark Donnelly. The final will take place at the Athletic Grounds next Saturday night (throw-in 7.30pm).
Fermanagh were well in the hunt early on as a hat-trick of Daryl Keenan points reduced Tyrone's lead to 0-4 to 0-3. But Mickey Harte's charges tightened their grip on the game with Kane's goal in first half injury-time.
Stephen O'Neill and Sean Cavanagh were among the scorers for Tyrone in the opening half, and the latter fired over again as they enjoyed a strong start to the second period and cantered clear by 1-8 to 0-4.
Paul Ward, Keenan (0-2) and Sean Quigley all pointed as the Ernesiders scrambled to stay competitive, but the issue was settled by Cavanagh's fourth point in the closing stages and Donnelly's injury-time goal.
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