Monaghan falling off the pace concerns Conor McManus
AS the Monaghan players trudged off the field, bowed by a poor second half display against Kerry, Conor McManus held back.
The sun hadn’t been an Easter Sunday visitor to Clones until the dying moments of a disappointing game, but it came out in time for the supporters to dander on to the pitch at the game’s end.
McManus was quickly surrounded. The youngsters in their Monaghan blue and their Kerry green and gold queued patiently.
The Allstar forward stood for maybe 20 minutes. One photo after the other. Never breaking stride, never showing a hint of impatience.
You’re sure deep down he would have wanted to find sanctuary in the changing room, but he stayed until the queue was at its end.
Monaghan emerged in body only from the half-time changing room and saw Kerry go from level to six points clear in the space of 11 minutes.
The final margin was eight, and leaves Malachy O’Rourke’s side most likely needing to beat old rivals Donegal in Castleblayney on Sunday to stay up.
“It was a poor second half,” conceded McManus.
”We started relatively well, had a decent enough first half and probably had chances to put ourselves ahead before half-time.
“We didn’t take them but even so, we were still very much in the game at half-time. We came out and it was a very poor second half. We’d be very disappointed with that.
“There were periods when we were attacking in the first half that we could have put more scores on the board, but ultimately we were still happy enough at half-time. The game was very much there to be won at that stage.
“We’re very disappointed with the second half.”
Wary of a disastrous start in Cork in their previous game, Monaghan had set out cautiously in the first half. Aided by a considerable wind, the half-time parity never looked like being enough for them.
“It wasn’t the breeze that beat us in the second half, it was nothing to do with it,” said the Clontibret man.
“Kerry came out and played a similar game, but we fell off the pace big time. That’s something we’ll have to work on between now and next week.”
The loss was a fourth consecutive reverse for the reigning Ulster champions, and leaves them perilously close to slipping out of the top flight.
Worse than the results has been the manner of the last two. Having lost narrowly to Dublin and Mayo, they were poor in Cork and then uncharacteristically flat in Clones on Sunday.
It was only a second defeat by a margin of more than three points in their last 30 home games.
“Ah look, there were a couple of those games we should have won. The first two [against Dublin and Mayo] we should have got something out of.
“The last two, we’ve been very poor. It’s difficult. Things are going against us at the minute, but we have to regroup and look to get a performance out of ourselves next weekend,” said the Clontibret man.
Donegal travel to the revamped Castleblayney grounds with slightly less need than their hosts.
Only a trouncing coupled with a big Mayo win over Down would leave them in any danger.
Defeat for Monaghan would be terminal, but victory would be enough if things go to plan in Tralee, where Kerry and Cork clash.
If Kerry win that game, Monaghan beat Donegal and Mayo beat Down as expected, Monaghan, Cork and Mayo would all finish level on six points. Cork would go down.
“It’s a must win for ourselves, and they need the win to secure safety as well,” said the Clontibret forward, who still managed to add five points to his growing tally for the year.
“It’s very much all to play for. We have to put this behind us and try and learn from it as best we can, and get a performance next week.”