Monaghan hold back the Kerry tide
Kerry give themselves too much to do in Inniskeen
Kerry’s Brian O’Beaglaoich is tackled by Neil McAdam of Monaghan. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Monaghan 1-13 Kerry 0-14
On days like this, hardly anyone goes home with their heads hanging. Monaghan got the bloodrush of rescuing a game where they had let a seven-point lead get whittled down to one with the finish line in sight.
Kerry got a belligerent second-half performance on the road out of a team stocked with fresh faces. Both sides end the weekend on four points after three games, essentially one good day away from being sure of Division One ball next year. Happiness is March football looking up not down.
That said, Monaghan would have been sick to have left this one behind them. This is their third league win over Kerry in the past four seasons but they made monstrous chore out of it after a bright start. They scored the first four points of the game, went seven up by the 20th minute and kept Kerry scoreless from play for a full 40 minutes either side of half-time. And still, though they led by a point on the hour mark, it looked for all the world like the tide was with the visitors as time ran down.
When David Clifford kicked his third point after coming on as a half-time sub - his second free - there were 90 seconds left of injury-time and Monaghan ached for a kick-out. Kerry won it though and drove at the heart of the Monaghan defence, frantically trying to entice Cormac Reilly into giving them the free that would have drawn the game.
It was hard to blame them. Reilly could easily have felt he owed Kerry for a mistaken penalty call in the first half, when goalkeeper Shane Murphy was whistled for a foul on Monaghan midfielder Niall Kearns despite having put in a perfectly clean tackle on the ball.
Even Malachy O’Rourke conceded afterwards that it looked like a harsh decision - not that it mattered to Conor McManus, whose resultant goal proved crucial. As it happened, Kerry didn’t get their late free and Monaghan were able to farm possession long enough to buy themselves one down the other end. They had given themselves a scare with a tepid second-half display but when it mattered, they were able to see it out.
“It’s just making sure that we have that resilience but that quality as well,” O’Rourke said. “And that we keep our heads and use the ball. And we did that in the last 10 minutes, held onto the ball a wee bit better and worked openings. Subs came on, made a great impact and Neil McAdam got a great score to put us two up again.”
Eamonn Fitzmaurice gave a fairly wry laugh when asked about the penalty, and a sort of ye-know-yourselves shrug into the bargain. Come the summer he would hardly afford to be so magnanimous about it but in the middle of February in boggy Inniskeen, he had no need to go looking for scalps.
“I was a good bit away from it. It looked to me like Shane got a good flick on the ball. I’d be interested to see it on TV afterwards. It certainly looked to me like he got a good flick on the ball. But when the call is made the call is made, you have to move on.”
And move on they did. In the 50 minutes after McManus stuck the penalty, Kerry outscored Monaghan by 0-10 to 0-5. Of the 21 players Fitzmaurice used here, 10 haven’t a minute of senior championship experience between them. Clifford and Seán O’Shea are the obvious eye-catchers among the new crop but Micheál Burns put in another impressive stint and Ronan Shanahan looks a nailed-on summer starter at corner-back.
That Kerry didn’t winkle out a result in the end was mostly down to giving themselves too much to do. Harsh and all as the penalty had been, nobody could have argued that Monaghan were anything other than good value for their early seven-point lead. They settled far better and played some easy-on-the-eye football, spraying crossfield passes to each other and splitting the posts with some fine scores from Jack McCarron, Colin Walshe and a tireless Darren Hughes.
Fitzmaurice’s response to Monaghan’s 1-9 to 0-6 lead at the break was to send on Clifford and Tom O’Sullivan and both had a significant impact at either end of the pitch. Clifford showed for everything and though a few of his moves didn’t work out, Kerry were inching their way back into matters all the while. Burns landed a sweet score to end 40 minutes of Kerry attacks without a score from play, Barry John Keane got in for his second fisted point of an otherwise frustrating afternoon.
When Clifford galloped through for one of his own from play after a gang-tackle turnover of Hughes in midfield, Kerry’s tails were well up. Monaghan needed a smart save by Rory Beggan from a Paul Geaney shot to keep breathing but when O’Shea tacked on his sixth point from a free on the hour mark, it looked like there could only be one winner - and it wasn’t the team who were a point ahead. Especially so when corner-back Barry Kerr walked on a straight red card for something off-the-ball.
But Monaghan held out. McAdam stitched a point from a quickly-taken free to keep them two ahead and in all the frenzy at the end, they kept it between the ditches just long enough to survive.
Monaghan: Rory Beggan; Colin Walshe (0-1), Drew Wylie, Barry Kerr; Dessie Mone, Conor Boyle, Karl O’Connell; Darren Hughes (0-1), Niall Kearns; Dessie Ward (0-1), Dermot Malone, Paudie McKenna (0-1); Thomas Kerr, Jack McCarron (0-4, 0-3 free), Conor McManus (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees). Subs: Fintan Kelly for Mone (half-time), Ryan McAnespie for Malone (45 mins), Owen Duffy (0-1) for McKenna (51), Neil McAdam (0-1) for T Kerr (61), Ryan Wylie for McCarron (67), Kieran Duffy for Kearns (71).
Kerry: Shane Murphy; Shane Enright, Jason Foley, Ronan Shanahan; Paul Murphy, Andrew Barry, Brian Ó Beaglaoich; Brendan O’Sullivan, Peter Crowley; Micheál Burns (0-2), Seán O’Shea (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 45), Stephen O’Brien; Jack Savage, Paul Geaney (0-1), Barry John Keane (0-2). Subs: Eanna Ó Conchúir for O’Sullivan (23 mins), Tom O’Sullivan for Barry (half-time), David Clifford (0-3, 0-2 frees) for Savage (half-time), Daithí Casey for Crowley, (54), Killian Spillane for Keane (63 mins), Mikey Geaney for O’Brien (71).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)