A second consecutive win for Monaghan brings them closer to another season in Division 1 while Kerry, having travelled north for a second time in seven days, may have not made the trip to Inniskeen worthwhile league table-wise but redeemed themselves in performance after a listless first half.
Eight points conceded after 15 minutes, seven points down after 20, Kerry could have drawn the curtains on this one, especially with so much youth on show but they persevered and when Seán O’Shea added a free in the 58th minute they were a point behind.
The dismissal of Barry Kerr four minutes later also fell into their lap but they couldn’t make that advantage count. Monaghan scored next, lulling Kerry into thinking Rory Beggan was going to take a time-killing long-range free only for some quick thinking to find Neil McAdam who sent the ball between the posts.
Kerry, with substitute David Clifford again causing difficulties for Monaghan, cut the difference to one once more via a free but the home side played some good keep-ball and eventually saw out the game.
Éamonn Fitzmaurice wasn’t too downbeat afterwards irrespective of some tough refereeing decision on his team, chiefly the penalty call against Shane Murphy in the 20th minute, McManus stroking the resultant spot kick to the net. Even at seven points down, he didn’t fear his side could end up being drubbed.
“I wasn’t because I felt we could rectify a lot of the mistakes we were making. You have to credit Monaghan, they really punished us early. We were sloppy in possession, we got turned over a couple of times through individual errors rather than Monaghan pressure, but when they got the ball they put us under pressure on the scoreboard.
“I felt if we could tidy up our own game, we could chip away and improve. We certainly did that in the second half, so the lads deserve a lot of credit. But it’s disappointing to come up two weekends and leave empty-handed.” Monaghan’s focus on the Kerry’s short kick-outs worked wonders and saw them claim a few points as receiving defenders found difficulty. That Kerry didn’t alternate their restarts with punts to the middle third was unusual but Fitzmaurice focused on how the opposition had honed in on them. “They pressed on well and they caused us problems, it’s something we are working hard at, something we’ll look at and see can we get it right for next weekend.” Monaghan’s first four points came inside the opening five minutes and they led 0-8 to 0-4 when Jack McCarron, noticing Niall Kearns’ run, pushed through a kick into him. Kerry goalkeeper Shane Murphy appeared to have made a fine tackle on the midfielder but Cormac Reilly thought otherwise and Kerry soon after found themselves seven points in arrears.
It was an unfair call but the six-point difference at the break – 1-9 to 0-6 – was reflective of how the opening half had transpired. Malachy O’Rourke could fault little with his side in that period. “We played some good football going forward in the first half and we were tight in defence as well. In the second half, we always knew Kerry were going to come back. We weren’t clinical enough at times (in the second half) and it allowed Kerry to come into it and they did.
“We were glad we were able to hold our composure even when we went down to 14 men and finish out the game.”
Micheál Burns’ 53rd minute point broke Kerry’s 45-minute spell without a score from play but by that stage they were already looking a more cohesive group. Clifford was given them a focal point upfront and Paul Murphy’s energy was rubbing off on others. Eanna Ó Conchuir had also provided them with more industry in midfield and they were within three points in the 56th minute.
There had been a couple of half-chances for Kerry goals in the first half via Paul Murphy and Brian Ó Beaglaoich and Beggan did well to deny Paul Geaney in the 58th minute but advantage had been given and O’Shea followed up a Clifford point with a free to breathe on Monaghan’s neck only for the Kingdom to come up short at the end.
“They were dangerous-looking right through the game,” recalled O’Rourke. “They had a few goal chances but it was a case of keeping our concentration and our boys being alert. It was a case of when we had the ball that we didn’t do anything rash with it and take it into the tackle. By and large, we did that.”
Allianz FL Division 1: Monaghan 1-13, Kerry 0-14
C. McManus (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-3 frees); J. McCarron (0-4, 3 frees); P. McKenna, D. Ward, C. Walshe, D. Hughes, O. Duffy, N. McAdam (0-1 each).
S. O’Shea (0-6, 5 frees, 1 45); D. Clifford (0-3, 2 frees); M. Burns, B.J. Keane (0-2 each); P. Geaney (0-1).
R. Beggan; C. Walshe, C. Boyle, B. Kerr; D. Mone, D. Wylie, K. O’Connell; D. Hughes, N. Kearns; P. McKenna, D. Malone, D. Ward; J. McCarron, T. Kerr, C. McManus (c).
F. Kelly for D. Mone (h-t); R. McAnespie for D. Malone (45); O. Duffy for P. McKenna (51); N. McAdam for T. Kerr (61); R. Wylie for J. McCarron (67); K. Duffy for N. Kearns (70+1).
B. Kerr (straight, 62).
S. Murphy; S. Enright, R. Shanahan, J. Foley; P. Murphy, A. Barry, B Ó Beaglaoich; B. O’Sullivan, P. Crowley; M. Burns, S. O’Shea, S. O’Brien; J. Savage, P. Geaney, B.J. Keane.
E Ó Conchuir for B. O’Sullivan (22); T. O’Sullivan for A. Barry, D. Clifford for J. Savage (both h-t); D. Casey for P. Crowley (54); K. Spillane for B.J. Keane (63); M. Geaney for S. O’Brien (70+1).
C. Reilly (Meath).