Late, late drama breathes life into final round of Super 8s
Monaghan fail to make it count when on top in Clones as David Clifford saves Kerry's summer
The ball goes past Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan, scored by David Clifford of Kerry (out of picture) for Kerry’s late goal at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images
And on the fourth day, the Super-8s rose again. When the GAA came up with the new format for the championship, afternoons like this in Clones and Newbridge were twinkle in their eye. A couple of pulsating, bruising encounters with nothing nailed down until the last ball was kicked. This sort of thing might catch on – what would we complain about then?
Sky Sports will presumably be sending a fruit basket – or a teenager’s equivalent – down to David Clifford in Fossa at some point over the coming fortnight. His 74th-minute goal that bought Kerry a 1-17 to 1-17 draw against Monaghan keeps Group One as a going concern going into the last round of matches. There would have been only so much mileage they’d have been able to squeeze out of a Galway v Monaghan game with only the chance to avoid Dublin at stake.
As it is, the arithmetic breaks down like this. Galway are through on four points. Monaghan are two ahead of Kerry with a points difference lead of five. Kildare are gone, their season reduced to fixture-filling in Killarney on the bank holiday weekend. Reduced to brass tacks, if Monaghan come out of Salthill with at least a draw, they will be in their first All-Ireland semi-final since 1988. If they lose, Kerry need to beat Kildare and turn the points difference around to progress.
“Yeah, we won the draw,” said Eamonn Fitzmaurice afterwards. “We could have stolen it at the end, we were very nearly in – we had possession at the end, maybe the fact the time was up the lads rushed it slightly. We could have really stolen a win, but no look with a couple of minutes to go to get a draw out of it I was delighted with that.
“We are just relieved to be still in the championship. I think coming off last weekend the lads really reacted well. Today wasn’t a perfect performance, it wasn’t about being a perfect performance, but it was about being strong from a mentality point of view and keeping going. The lads did that, so I’m very proud of them.
“We were all very disappointed after our no show last weekend and we wanted to right that this weekend. We knew it was going to be a big ask up here, but delighted that we’re still in the championship, we’re going for our home game next now with it still all to play for. I know we need results going our way in other places and whatever, but all we can do is control our own thing and see where that takes us.”
That they’re still in it at all was as much Monaghan’s doing as Kerry’s. Malachy O’Rourke’s side led for 72 of the 75 minutes, with Conor McManus loving life in at full-forward and posting 1-9 for his day’s work. Rory Beggan landed a half a mile of frees and all around the pitch, they won their battles and dominated their patches.
They just didn’t put Kerry away. This was a completely different type of game to their defeat by Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship but they got caught for the same crime – when they were on top, they didn’t make it count. Early wides, balls dropped short, goal chances missed – even at the end, when they broke out after Clifford’s equaliser off a Kieran Donaghy break in the square, Monaghan butchered a late chance to win it. If they don’t make a semi-final, their lack of finishing skill outside of McManus will be the reason.
“We are still there,” McManus said. “We led from the very start but just forgot to finish it out. A team of Kerry’s quality were always going to keep fighting, with their season on the line there, and they came roaring back but, look it, there is a lot we can take out of that, disappointing and all that it is. We just have to get over that.
“We are still in a position to go ahead and get into an All-Ireland semi-final – we have to go beat a quality Galway side. That’s a big challenge. People talked about the Fermanagh game earlier in the year, there was a lot said about that, but there is no point in dwelling on it. We just have to move on.”
In Newbridge, Galway were 0-19 to 0-16 winners over Kildare in a game that turned on a Daniel Flynn red card in the 46th minute. Even though they were down to 14 men, Kildare were still within a point as stoppage time approached but late scores from Seán Kelly and Damien Comer saw them out the gap.
“I’ve said this before, there were one or two games early on this year that we had to dig out and we probably shouldn’t have been in that position with the amount of chances we had,” said Kevin Walsh. “Look, I could be wrong here, but I’d say we probably missed a lot of chances today that should have made us a bit more comfortable.”
Doesn’t matter now. Galway are through, Monaghan are within touching distance, Kerry are still breathing. In Group Two, the Dubs are home and hosed and Tyrone and Donegal still have to face off in a winner-takes all game in Ballybofey.
The summer is a long way from being written in stone just yet.