HomeFootballDown and Monaghan meet again for All-Ireland intermediate semi-final spot

Down and Monaghan meet again for All-Ireland intermediate semi-final spot

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TG4 All-Ireland Ladies’ IFC quarter-final

Down v Monaghan (Sunday, Pairc Esler, 2pm, live on LGFA Facebook/YouTube)

WHEN Down and Monaghan met in the Ulster final just over a month ago they played out an absorbing contest, with the Mourne county clinching the title by the narrowest of margins.

There was a feeling that these two sides might meet again during the All-Ireland series and they have been thrust back together again at the earliest opportunity.

Like that Ulster decider, this quarter-final is a winner-takes-all encounter, but unlike it, this one is no free hit.

Both these sides will have serious ambitions to continue their championship trail, and both will feel a semi-final place is more than achievable.

The Clones clash proved to be the proverbial game of two halves. Down, last year’s All-Ireland junior champions, rocked their opponents with a blistering first-half display and looked well in control at the break with a 1-8 to 0-4 lead.

That became 2-8 to 0-4 immediately on the resumption, but Monaghan dug deep and showed tremendous character and fight to claw their way back in to the game.

They had chances to win it, or at least force extra-time, but Down were able to hang on and claim another significant scalp on their way to the title.

Down went on to top their All-Ireland group with wins over Cavan – who they had already beaten in Ulster – and Westmeath, meaning they have home advantage tomorrow.

Monaghan finished runners-up in their group. They lost to Clare, but a last-gasp draw against Offaly was enough to see them through on scoring difference.

The Ulster champions will start as slight favourites for this game but they know that Monaghan will be eyeing their own scalp and it will be yet another huge challenge according to forward Laoise Duffy.

“It’s Monaghan again. Obviously we will be quite familiar with each other after the Ulster final,’’says Duffy

“Whether or not we would have preferred to have played another team, I think at this stage of the competition there is no easy team, every team that you come up against in the quarter-final is going to be tough, so we are going to prepare for it just the same as any other team.”

“The championship that we have had so far, nothing has been easy, not that we thought it would be. We definitely have had to battle it out and we are happy that we were able to.

“I think that has given us a good bit of confidence that we have been able to hold on to the leads that we got and keep it to the end.

“We know exactly how much of a challenge Monaghan will be and we will not go in with any complacency. They will bring a big challenge but it is one that we are looking forward to.”

Monaghan’s Amy Garland is also looking forward to going up against Down again and hopes they can perform for the whole 60 minutes this time around.

“Reaching the last eight was our target,’’ she says.

“We feel we have a very talented group of players, especially coming up from the minor squads this year, and we felt we could give it our all.

“Some things didn’t go our way in the Ulster final, especially in the first half, when we didn’t do ourselves justice. In the second half l felt we were better.

“Against Clare and Offaly, l felt we had a never-say-die attitude. Even after Offaly had gone two points up into added time, all we could do was go after it and we did.

“We have to bring that attitude and the belief within ourselves into this game. We have the players that can do damage once we have the ball, it’s all about what we as a team learn about the Ulster final to bring into Sunday’s game.

“It would be a huge accomplishment to reach the semi-final stages, not just for the team but for the county as well.

“As a team we always just think of the next game and what we can improve on from the last game. We try not to look beyond that.

IFC FIXTURES

Saturday

Relegation qualifier Antrim v Cavan (Inniskeen, 2pm)

Sunday

Quarter-finals (2pm)

Down v Monaghan (Pairc Esler)

Clare v Tyrone (Cusack Park, Ennis)

Leitrim v Roscommon (Ballinamore)

Wexford v Westmeath (Bellefield)

Relegation qualifier Offaly v Wicklow (Crettyard, 2.30pm)

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