Kerry 1-10 Monaghan 2-8: Monaghan’s Division 1 league schedule had the sheer angle of a cliff-face to it with first month visits to Mayo, Kerry and Tyrone. Now? Not so much.
Five points from six, their only dropped point at home to Cavan as they prepare for a trip to Omagh next Saturday. And they’ll do so with a bounce in their step after a gloriously foul 70-odd minutes yesterday in Killarney.
No team out-toils Monaghan and whether Kerry made that cardinal sin yesterday is a point of debate. The dog day and the defiance of the opposition got the better of them. The Kingdom were limited to two points from play, the same amount Conor McManus pilfered in four clinical second-half minutes. Their manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice described Kerry’s decision-making as “a bit off”, but Monaghan ran them down cul-de-sacs and into tall walls and they did all this while suffering one injury setback after another.
This wasn’t just a result to savour, it was a performance to quicken the pulse of the Monaghan faithful and their manager. The difference being O’Rourke must get his tidy squad, further compromised by three injuries yesterday, down and then up again for Tyrone next weekend.
“When we won in Tralee two years ago, some local man said afterwards ‘shure it’s only the league’, and of course it is. Holding Kerry to two points from play in these conditions is very different to repeating it in the summer. That full-forward line they have is as good as anything in the country, but it was an afternoon for defenders,” O’Rourke reflected.
Of course that’s true but wins away to Mayo and Kerry in February is the type of feelgood fragrance anyone would like to inhale, even at the dawning stage of the campaign. The defeat leaves Kerry and their manager in familiar league territory, looking edgily over their shoulders at the trapdoor to Division 2. Next weekend’s visit to Roscommon assumes the feel of a must-win game now
Though Monaghan’s sleeves were rolled up from the get-go, they could have been further adrift than the two-point half-time deficit (1-5 to 1-3) had wind-assisted Kerry availed of a couple of goalscoring chances — one in particular for the usually deadly Paul Geaney in the 19th minute. Four minutes later, a James O’Donoghue free had the hosts 1-4 to 0-2 in front but Jack McCarron’s 27th-minute goal shifted the momentum. Brendan Kealy saved Conor McManus’ first effort, but McCarron, feeling his way back after injury, was more decisive than those bidding to foil him, from the rebound into play.
Kerry’s decision-making was ill-judged when it wasn’t ponderous, but they never got a moment’s respite. Monaghan had use of the elements in the second-half, but the physical clamp never relented. They lost Colin Walshe before half-time, Darren Hughes failed to reappear for the second period and sub Owen Duffy departed after only 10 second-half minutes. But within six minutes of the restart they had a McManus-Doogan axis to celebrate as the latter finished low and purposefully past Kealy in the Kerry goal.
A McCarron point a minute later had Monaghan in front for the first time, and Kieran Hughes — what an engine — reclaimed the lead for them in the 57th minute when he made it 2-6 to 1-8. Hughes and Doogan sat behind midfield, Shane Carey drifted onto outlet ball and Conor McManus roamed the prairies of the half-forward line as the visitors continued to frustrate and dispossess laboured Kerry.
McManus popped two points to open a three-point gap and two late Kerry frees wouldn’t deny them the points. “Our defence has been going very well and we are pleased with that but without sounding smart a Kerry forward line in the summer time compared to a Kerry forward line in wintery conditions is completely different. We are wise to that as well,” said O’Rourke.
Recognising the peril of their last quarter situation, Fitzmaurice threw in proven talents — Maher, Darran O’Sullivan and Bryan Sheehan — but the latter’s first act was to strike out in frustration and see red from referee Derek O’Mahony. More sustenance for Monaghan. It shouldn’t go unsaid that Kerry are light on resources at the moment, and whatever inexperience cost them yesterday, the likes of Ronan Shanahan, Jack Barry and Kevin McCarthy — who started for the suspended Donnchadh Walsh — will profit in the long-term from such an intense examination of their inter-county credentials.
The steadiness of Tadhg Morley yesterday underlines how quickly nascent talent can progress, but the Kingdom’s need for league points is immediate at this stage. Only one Kerry forward scored from play, and they went 23 second-half minutes without a score. Getting usable ball into Messrs Savage, Geaney and O’Donoghue was beyond them and Geaney was withdrawn after 50 minutes, perhaps with a mind on his suspect hamstring.
Malachy O’Rourke doesn’t have such luxuries and admitted Monaghan could be tight for bodies next weekend. Not that anyone will be spending unnecessary time on the treatment table with the whiff of momentum in their nostrils.
Scorers for Kerry:
J. O’Donoghue (0-3, frees), P. Geaney (0-3, frees), D Moran (1-0), P. Murphy, T Morley (0-1 each), B Kealy, BJ Keane (0-1 each, frees)
Scorers for Monaghan:
J McCarron (1-3, 1 free), G Doogan (1-0), C McManus (0-2), K Hughes (0-2), R Beggan (0-1, free)
B Kealy; S Enright, M Griffin, K Young; T Morley, P Crowley, R Shanahan; D Moran, J Barry; J Lyne, P Murphy, K McCarthy; J Savage, J O’Donoghue, P. Geaney.
S O’Brien for Savage (half-time); B J Keane for Geaney (51); A Spillane for McCarthy (53); A Maher for Barry (55, black card); D O’Sullivan for Crowley (61); B Sheehan for Moran (65)
R Beggan; F Kelly, C Walshe, R Wylie; K O’Connell, D Wylie J Mealiff; D Hughes, K Hughes; K Duffy, S Carey, G Doogan; D Malone, J McCarron, C McManus.
N McAdam for Walshe (29); O Duffy for D Hughes (half time); R McAnespie for Mealiff (ht); C. McCarthy for O Duffy (46); T Kerr for Malone (65)
D O’Mahony (Tipperary).
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