By Kieran Lynch
IT’S crunch time in the Monaghan Senior Football Championship as we head into the final weekend of group-stage action.
A pair of surprise results in the opening round of fixtures in Group One set the wheels in motion for the glamour tie of the final weekend, which comes between Scotstown and Clontibret, in what could potentially be a knockout encounter.
Clontibret lost out to Donaghmoyne in their opener after a stoppage-time goal from Liam McDonald handed David Lennon’s team a two-point win.
Mick O’Dowd’s men have since bounced back with wins over Aughnamullen and Ballybay, but defeat against Scotstown could potentially see the 2019 winners exit this year’s championship.
Ballybay’s work is done for now, and they will patiently await the results from the final round of fixtures, after they claimed five points from four games. They ended a 20-year run without a championship victory over Scotstown when they won 1-12 to 1-10 on opening day, with Christopher McGuinness the goal-scoring hero.
That result put last year’s Monaghan champions immediately on the back foot, and they were left for very little margin for error over their remaining games. Colin McAree’s team responded well to that defeat though, and overcame Donaghmoyne and Aughnamullen to set up a crunch clash with Clontibret.
Consequently, with Scotstown and Clontibret sitting on four points, the winner of their clash will jump Ballybay and finish top to claim a semi-final spot; whilst the loser may be dumped out.
That however, is dependent on the result between Donaghmoyne and Aughnamullen. Donaghmoyne will be favoured to overtake the loser of that clash if they claim the win over a side who lost their first three games, but Gabriel Bannigan’s team are anything but whipping boys in Group One.
In their most recent outing, against Scotstown, the two teams were all square at half time before Shane Carey and Darren Hughes powered the away side to victory.
If Aughnamullen can pull off an upset win this weekend, then Scotstown and Clontibret’s place in the next round is safe, regardless of the outcome of their game. If Donaghmoyne win then it could be curtains for one of the competition’s two most recent winners.
In Group Two, things are slightly simpler. Truagh and Oisin McConville’s Inniskeen are sitting pretty after three games as following their 0-9 apiece draw last weekend, the two teams are level on five points each and are through to the next round.
The only question that remains between this teams is who will top the group and head straight into the semi-final, and that may come down to a shoot-out on points difference.
Truagh currently lead by one in that department, so the margin couldn’t be any closer heading into the final group game. They take on Latton, whilst Inniskeen host Carrickmacross.
Latton and Carrickmacross are in direct competition to finish in the top three and secure a spot in the next round, with the two teams level on two points. However, Carrick hold the advantage on head-to-head, after they defeated the O’Rahilly’s club, when Stephen Gollogly converted a penalty at the death.
Despite that, the remaining team in the group, Castleblayney, also have a chance of progression, if Truagh and Inniskeen keep up their winning form.
In that case, Latton, Carrickmacross, and ‘Blayney will all be involved in a three-way tie and points difference will be required to determine who secures a quarter-final spot, and qualifies for the next round.