Monaghan edge Kildare wrestle at rainy Croke Park
One hard game after another caught up with Kildare, as much mentally as physically
Monaghan’s Conor McManus and David Hyland of Kildare during their Super 8s round 1 match at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Monaghan 0-15 Kildare 1-10
A morbid fear of defeat hung in the air for much of a suffocating game that was finely balanced throughout; but when Monaghan decided that chasing a win was more appealing than falling into the abyss, their cleverer use of possession - and an avoidance of errors - enabled them to move clear of a fatigued Kildare when it mattered.
With the summer finally bringing rain to make for a greasy surface, Monaghan’s players adapted the better in the conditions, more sure-footed and with a greater ability to hold onto the bar of soap that impersonated as a football. Far too often, for whatever reason, Kildare players failed to hold onto the ball while also guilty of poor decision-making. Maybe one hard game after another caught up on them, as much mentally as physically.
Monaghan won the game when it needed to be won. The art of scoring had seemed like an alien concept to the their forwards for much a second-half where neither side appeared capable of taking a grip on proceedings. In fact, of Monaghan’s five second-half points, only one - from Conor McManus - was scored by a forward.
Indeed, it took rampaging runs from defenders Karl O’Connell and corner-back Kieran Duffy for points and another long-range effort from midfielder Niall Kearns to eventually steer Monaghan in the right direction with the game on a knife-edge. As if to underscore that this was a victory built from the back, the final act of scoring was delivered from Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan who landed a 47 metre free deep into additional time.
It’s not as if Kildare didn’t have chances. They did. But a return of just 44 percent (compared to a team average close on 70 percent during the championship) clearly showed it was an off-day with the kicking boots, while as much damage to their cause came from poor decision-making when failing to offload to players making runs or better positioned.
Poor Daniel Flynn must have felt like he was invisible to his own men. Although isolated on the edge of the square a lot of the time, he nonetheless made numerous darts into space only to be overlooked. And it wasn’t as if his comrades in arms didn’t know what he could do: in the sixth minute, Flynn had outmanoeuvred Ryan Wylie and then ignored the attempted block of Darren Hughes to fire beyond Beggan for what would be the game’s only goal.
On another occasion, in the 16th minute, Flynn again broke clear of his markers but his thunderous effort was magnificently saved - tipped over the bar for a damage limiting point instead of a goal - by Beggan.
Monaghan, who lost Owen Duffy to a black card for a leg trip Neil Flynn in the 17th minute, led by two points at the break - 0-10 to 1-5 - but their primary attacking threat came from wing-back O’Connell’s frequent visits upfield where he proved to be a real threat. Aside from his mazy, speedy runs, he also showed a keen eye for scoring. His two long-range points in the first-half were added to by another in the second when his initial shot was well saved by Mark Donnellan but he then showed speed of thought in punching the rebound over the bar.
The bottom line was that Monaghan were marginally more efficient in taking their chances. Apart from a 90 seconds spell after Flynn’s goal, Monaghan never trailed. They led by two points at half-time, huffed and puffed for much of the second-half but pulled through when it mattered most at the final whistle.
“Delighted to get through, it was a very difficult day for playing football,” admitted Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke. “Look, there’s things we’d like to tidy up. We coughed up a wee bit of ball and were not clinical enough but the boys showed great character, held out well and I think we deserved the victory.”
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-2, one 45, one free); K Duffy (0-1), D Wylie, R Wylie; F Kelly, V Corey, K O’Connell (0-3); N Kearns (0-2), D Hughes; R McAnespie, S Carey (0-1), O Duffy; C McCarthy (0-2), D Mone, C McManus (0-4, two frees). Subs - P McKenna for O Duffy (black card) (17 mins), J McCarron for Kelly (47 mins), K Hughes for McKenna (60 mins), D Malone for Carey (66 mins).
Kildare: M Donnellan; P Kelly, D Hyland, M O’Grady; J Byrne (0-1), E Doyle, K Flynn; K Feely (0-1, free), T Moolick (0-1); F Conway (0-1), P Cribbin, K Cribbin; N Flynn (0-4, two frees), D Flynn (1-1), P Brophy. Subs - N Kelly for P Cribbin (46 mins), C Healy for Brophy (50 mins), D Slattery for K Cribbin (58 mins), E Callaghan (0-1) for Moolick (68 mins), C McNally for N Flynn (71 mins).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)