It looked like a long line of Monaghan United defeats to non-league sides was set to continue in the First round of the EA Sports Cup at Gortakeegan on Monday. Having gone behind to a 38th minute Eunan Kelly goal, Monaghan left it very late with two strikes in injury time sealing the win for the home side in dramatic fashion.
The game had a fairly scrappy quality to it with Roddy Collins giving an opportunity to some of the younger members of his squad and the Monaghan United Under 19s. This was very apparent as it took a long time for the Premier Division side to settle into the game. Handing debuts to Leigh Dunne, David Crosbie and his son Roddy Junior looked like it could be a gamble too far at one point but as they settled in they were the match for a very fit and organised Fanad.
Fanad had the first of the real chances and were unlucky not to go ahead earlier. In the 28th minute Christy Connigan rounded the defence and was left one on one with Michaél Schlingermann but he sent his effort well wide.
It was only at the half hour mark that Monaghan United’s team started to show an indication that they were in the Airtricity League of Ireland Premier Division with Jason Marks working his way up the wing and turning inside his marker to send the ball over to Owen Humphrey. Humphrey did well to get to the ball with his head but it was tipped just over the bar.
Moments later Monaghan United’s fans were shocked as Fanad, against the run of play, took the lead. A well taken goal by Eunan Kelly put his side in front when a crowded goalmouth temporarily blocked Schlingermann’s view and he was unable to get to the curling ball.
In the second half, Monaghan United upped the tempo a bit and within moments of the game resuming, had a chance from a corner before Anthony Griffiths also got a chance to get on the scoreboard when he had a shot but sent the ball well over the bar.
Manager Collins felt it was time to shake things up a little and brought on Michael Isichei to replace Griffiths in the 57th minute. Isichei showed his trademark pace and a good first touch and impacted on the game straight from the off. Isichei seemed to inspire his young team mates and they lifted their game even further as they went in search of a much needed equaliser.
Indeed Isichei was the orchestrator of a fine chance for young Roddy to equalise when he set him up nicely in the box but Collins shot was got to by Lee McFadden in the Fanad goal to keep the game in their favour.
Ex-Bray Wanderers star Conor Murphy had a few chances to shine and drew gasps at his skilful step-overs and turning past the opposition. He will feel that his endeavours should have brought him a goal early on but his reward was to come in the first minute of added time.
Murphy made the breakthrough Mons needed when he rattled the back of the net and it was straight from the kick off that United went again in pursuit of goal and, making his father very proud, Roddy Junior obliged.
With only three minutes of time added on, Monaghan United had made the most of them by equalising and then going in front to finish the game by progressing to the next round.
Monaghan United: Michael Schlingermann; Roddy Collins, Leigh Dunne, Shane Dunne, Darragh Reynor; Owen Humphrey (Niall Crosbie, 80), David Crosbie, Daniel McGuinness, Jason Marks; Conor Murphy, Tony Griffiths (Michael Isichei, 57).
Subs Not Used: Conor Forde, C Crosbie.
Fanad United: Lee McFadden; Shaun McElwaine, Daire McDaid, Kieran Gorman, Seamus Friel, Paul Friel, Christy Connaghan (Brian McVeigh, 80), Keelan Kelly (Lee McMonagle, 77), Eunan Kelly, Aidan Sweeney, Mark Friel (Ryan Toland, 65).
Subs Not Used: Chris McBride, Kyle Black.
Referee: Darren Coombes.