Published Sunday, 24 June 2012
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Down clawed back a nine points first-half deficit to edge out Monaghan after an amazing game at the Athletic Grounds.
A stoppage time point from Darren O'Hagan put Down in front for the first time in the match, after they had trailed by six points at half-time.
Even then, Monaghan had a glorious chance to force a replay but the normally prolific Dick Clerkin screwed his shot agonisingly past the post.
Down had introduced star forward Benny Coulter as a 63rd minute sub and he scored with his first kick of the ball to cut the gap to two, after Tommy Freeman had put the Farney men four points ahead 10 minutes earlier, 1-12 to 1-8.
"It's great to be back in an Ulster final again but if we play the way we did in the first half, we'll have no chance against either Tyrone or Donegal," Coulter admitted
"I was warming up running along the line with another of the subs and I said to him: 'We're beat here' because I thought there was no way back after they got their goal."
But there certainly was, as Liam Doyle and Aidan Carr tagged points on to Coulter's to bring Down level for the second time in the match.
Then with the game entering the last minute of stoppage time, O'Hagan kept a cool head as he resisted the chance to go for goal and sent over the winning score.
But it was Monaghan who had taken control from the start of the game to lead by six points at the break.
Down trailed by nine at one stage, before a stoppage time penalty scored by Aidan Carr gave them a glimmer of hope going into the second half.
Clotibret's Conor McManus was in imperious form and he hit five points in the opening 35 minutes, while Paul Finlay weighed in with four.
Down were three points behind when Ambrose Rodgers opened their account and then Donal O'Hare's free cut the margin to 0-7 to 0-2.
But Monaghan added four scores without reply, before Carr's penalty awarded after Conor Lavery had been fouled by Vinny Corey as he threatened to find the net himself.
At the time it didn't look significant, but that was to prompt Down's amazing comeback as they proceeded to hit five unanswered points after the break.
The gap became a single point when Carr scored from a free in the 56th minute - but when Freeman found the net from a quickly taken free, it looked like the tide had turned back in Monaghan's favour.
Then came that fantastic finish as Down hit six of the last seven scores to seal a dramatic victory, sending their fans in the 11,146 crowd into ecstasy.