With little if nothing at stake for either team, there was little to commend the contest in terms of entertainment and few, if any, of Dublin’s fringe panellists took the opportunity afforded to them.
However, a sublime piece of skill from Jack McCarron in the 65th minute, lobbing Evan Comerford for Monaghan’s second goal, was the catalyst for an absorbing conclusion with Dublin further inconvenienced by the dismissal of Philly McMahon a minute later.
Both Brian Fenton and Brian Howard both kicked superb equalising scores that looked to have preserved Dublin’s unbeaten status but the final word fell to Kelly, who fired over from 35 yards with virtually the last kick of the contest.
“We weren’t too happy with parts of the play in the first-half but we improved a fair bit in the second-half,” said Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke. “We played Dublin this time last year and ran them very close but conceded two late goals so we were hoping that if it was close again we would show composure and thankfully we did that. We won’t get carried away and Dublin weren’t close to full strength and the points didn’t matter that much so we’ll keep the win in context but we are happy enough with the performance. No doubt it will give us a wee bit of confidence to beat this Dublin team,” he added.
Despite falling behind to an early Vinny Corey point, Dublin controlled matters initially with Dean Rock pulling them level on two occasions in the opening five minutes. Brian Fenton and Rock pushed Dublin two points clear by the seventh minute and an excellent point from Philly McMahon three minutes later reflected their dominance.
However, they suffered another one of those flat periods that has been a recurring theme of this year’s league campaign with late replacements Conor McHugh and Kevin McManamon failing to make any prolonged impression in attack. Vinny Corey was able to slice through their badly exposed defence for a well-worked goal in the 13th minute and although Monaghan only managed two frees from Conor McCarthy up until half-time, they still entered the break level such was Dublin’s lack of guile in attack.
As a result of their lack of decisive movement, it was the defenders that caught the eye going forward with Philly McMahon and Brian Howard both kicking two points while John Small and David Byrne also added scores. Byrne’s looked to have done enough to clinch the deal for Dublin but McCarron’s goal prompted an hectic conclusion to events.
For Jim Gavin, any defeat would not be welcome but he was happy to place as positive a sheen on matters ahead of next week’s league final against Galway.
“We gave lots of players opportunities there to start the game, and again when the game was in the mix, to put players in and experience that atmosphere, that intensity that Monaghan bring, you just can’t replicate that in training. To get that there today will certainly bring those players on a lot. That was certainly a positive. But we’ll reflect on the game and try and pick a strong team for next week. In physical terms we’re where we want to be. Obviously performance isn’t replicating that, so there’ll be a lot of hard reflection on that game today, to get ourselves ready for next week.”
V Corey, J McCarron 1-1 each, C McCarthy 0-3 (0-2 f), C McManus 0-2 (0-1f), K O’Connell, R McAnespie, K Hughes, D Mone, F Kelly 0-1 each.
D Rock 0-7 (0-5 f), B Howard, P McMahon, B Fenton 0-2 each, D Byrne, J Small, N Scully, C Basquel 0-1 each.
R Beggan: D Mone, C Boyle, V Corey; R Wylie, D Wylie, K O’Connell; D Hughes, N Kearns; P McKenna, O Duffy, R Mc Anespie; C McCarthy, K Hughes, C McManus.
F Kelly for McKenna (47), D Ward for Duffy (47). C Walshe for Mone (55, BC), J McCarron for McCarthy (56), N McAdam for Kearns (59), T Kerr for Hughes (70+1).
E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, P McMahon, D Byrne; D Daly, J Small, B Howard; B Fenton, J McCarthy; S Carthy, C Costello, N Scully; D Rock, C McHugh, K McManamon.
C Basquel for McManamon (44), MD Macauley for Carthy (44), E Murchan for Daly (54), P Small for McHugh (54), E Ó Conghaile for Costello (64).
David Gough (Meath).