Dublin 1-15 Monaghan 1-15
Another Saturday night in Croker, another last-kick draw. This time, Dublin were the equalisers rather than the equalised, Davy Byrne’s 79th-minute boomer into the Hill levelling a game in which they’d been miles off the pace for most of the night. Six points down going into injury-time and short a heap of their front-liners, there was no doubt which side went home feeling better about themselves.
In the end, this was rank carelessness from Monaghan. Throughout a rotten evening’s weather, they were much the better side. With the wind in the first half, they ran pretty patterns this way and that and took a nine-point lead to the break. And even when Dublin came at them at the beginning of the second period, they sucked it up and looked to have seen it out.
But a skittery Kevin McManamon goal beat Rory Beggan as the clock turned 70 and all of a sudden, Dublin had a sniff of a win. Sean Bugler was dead-eyed coming off the bench, stitching three smooth points in a frantic endgame. And when a Rory Beggan 45 drifted wide in the 77th minute, Dublin's one last attack ended with Byrne sending the crowd dotty.
Dessie Farrell will take heart from the never-beaten qualities his young side showed because in truth, the Dubs were outplayed in most other facets of the game. Monaghan burst out to an early lead but while they had the wind behind them, it could only account for so much.
The way both sides turned up in the first half in particular, there isn’t a weather system known to man that would have had Dublin close to parity. Farrell fielded only eight first-teamers against what was more or less Monaghan’s first XV and the gulf in experience was obvious. Monaghan attacked the first half like it was an opportunity, Dublin endured it like it was a trial.
The visitors had a goal on the board inside 45 seconds. Ryan McAnespie, free-running and scheming throughout, speared a long pass outside Mick Fitzsimons to pick out Conor McManus in behind. McManus has had cleaner finishes in his life but they all count the same - this one bobbled inside Evan Comerford's left-hand post and Monaghan were away.
Dean Rock tapped over a free a couple of minutes later. Not the sort of score one would usually note in a Dublin match report but worthy of mention here because it was Dublin’s last visit to the scoreboard for 20 full minutes. Monaghan took the game over from there, reeling off the next seven points on the spin.
Some of them owed a debt to the wind, certainly. McAnespie, Dessie Ward and Niall Kearns swung over one apiece that popped a sail and rode the breeze to the netting in front of the Hill. But Micheál Bannigan nipped in for a couple of sweet ones and McAnespie and McManus both popped up with marks that came on the back of some neat interplay out the field. It was clever, tidy stuff.
Dublin were decidedly unDublin, by contrast. Dan O'Brien took the sort of potshot the regulars never take and skewed it wide. Aaron Byrne, on for the injured Paddy Andrews, didn't steady himself properly for a shot and it fell well short. By half-time, Monaghan had 1-9 to 0-3 lead to bring in with them and it felt about right.
There was always going to be a response but even when it came, Monaghan resisted it reasonably well. Ciaran Kilkenny burst into the game, Rock carried the fight and the lead was cut to six inside the opening 10 minutes of the second period. But Monaghan found their own response, the highlight of which was a ridiculous Beggan free from the Dublin 65 into the wind.
They ticked and tocked away, looking for all the world like they would see it out. Conor Boyle lorried forward for a brilliant score, McManus nailed a couple of frees and by the time the fourth official was reaching for the board to announce an extra six minutes, they still led by six, 1-15 to 0-12.
But then the Dubs came. They always do.
Dublin: Evan Comerford; Mick Fitzsimons, David Byrne (0-1), Eoin Murchan; James McCarthy (0-1), Brian Howard, John Small; Brian Fenton, Ciarán Kilkenny (0-1); Niall Scully (0-1), Liam Flatman, Dara Mullin; Dan O'Brien (0-1), Paddy Andrews, Dean Rock (0-6, 0-4 frees). Subs: Aaron Byrne for Andrews, 12 mins; Paul Mannion for Mullin, half-time; Sean Bugler (0-3) for Flatman, 42 mins; Colm Basquel (0-1) for Flatman, 53 mins; Kevin McManamon (1-0) for A Byrne, 59 mins
Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-3, 0-3 frees); Drew Wylie, Conor Boyle (0-1), Kieran Duffy; Karl O'Connell, Ryan Wylie, Michael Bannigan (0-2); Darren Hughes, Niall Kearns (0-1); Ryan McAnespie (0-2, 0-1 mark), Conor McCarthy (0-1), Dessie Ward (0-1); Dermot Malone, Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus (1-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 mark). Subs: Aaron Mulligan for Bannigan, 49 mins; Shane Carey for K Hughes, 60 mins; Christopher McGuinnes for McCarthy, 66 mins; Paraic Keenan for Ward, 73 mins; K Hughes for Kearns, 73 mins
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)