Kingdom keep their cool to edge out Monaghan minors
All-Ireland Minor Football Championship semi-final: Monaghan 2-11 Kerry 1-16
TWO minutes into added time, a resurgent Monaghan looked set to scupper Kerry’s drive for five – but, even with a completely new group minus the sublime talents of David Clifford and Seamus O’Shea, the Kingdom showed what it is that keeps bringing them back to the biggest stage.
When super-sub Mark Mooney rippled the Kerry net before Donnacha Swinburne put Monaghan ahead for the first time two minutes into added time, the Farneymen – roared on by a huge support – had their Munster rivals where they wanted them.
But, despite having seen a nine-point lead 10 minutes into the second half whittled down to nothing, the young Kingdom stars kept their composure. Brosna maestro Paul Walsh led the way, popping over one easy free to level before converting another amazing effort from an awkward angle to wrestle back control for Peter Keane’s side.
Sub Jack Kennelly finished off the scoring in emphatic fashion, cutting inside two Monaghan men before launching a stunning left-footed effort straight over the black spot.
Some of these Kerry players were only 11 the last time the Kingdom lost a Championship game at this level.
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And now, with win number 29 in the bag, they will have the chance to the keep the Tom Markham Cup in Kerry for a fifth year in-a-row when they meet Galway in three weeks’ time.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney as yesterday marked exactly 11 years since his Farney side lost out by a point to eventual All-Ireland champions Kerry in the last eight.
But the Corduff man could barely contain his pride at the performance of his young Monaghan side.
He said: “It brings back bad memories for me from this day 11 years ago, when I was in the same room and the same punishment.
“We came here to win the game and I had myself convinced, had the players convinced, my management team convinced that we were the one team that could beat Kerry.
“I’m immensely proud of the lads, they fought to the bitter end. I thought we had the foot on their throat, and we could have smashed and grabbed it. We just coughed up one or two balls in that last four or five minute period and Kerry will always punish you.”
They punished the Farneymen early too, dominating Ryan Farrelly’s kick-outs, with Darragh Lyne and the outstanding Paul O’Shea controlling the game.
Banty’s boys struggled to make any inroads and when corner-back David Mangan slotted to the net early in the second half, it looked as though the gig was up.
But, despite trailing by nine, back they came, Sean Jones’s frees helping them chip away at the scoreboard and when Kerry had Conor Flannery sent off, suddenly it was game on.
Superbly-taken goals from Jason Irwin in the 55th minute and then Mooney two minutes later brought them level before Swinburne put them into the lead for the first time in the game.
It was all part of the master-plan, inists McEnaney.
“We had our mind made up with 18 minutes to go that we were going to go full press - that was the game-plan,” he said.
“We did that and it paid dividends. If I was to write the script I couldn’t have written it any better – we were exactly where we wanted to be.”
But, even after going a point behind in added time, Kerry kept their cool to break Monaghan hearts and keep the Kingdom on course for a historic five in-a-row.
And manager Keane cut a relieved figure after the game.
“Funnily enough at nine points I didn't feel we were comfortable and you might say, 'God, how could you not be?' but there was a skid on the ball, there was a bit of rain out there.
“These were very strong, very organised, there was a never-say-die attitude about Monaghan. I always felt they were going to come at us and by God did they rattle us in the end.
“You could hear the stadium was rocking at one stage with the shouting for Monaghan, as they were right to. Maybe for a few minutes that rattled our fellas but they stayed the course and they remained calm and they plotted their way out of it.”
Kerry: M Kelliher; C Flannery, O Fitzgerald, D Mangan (1-0); C Moriarty, D McCarthy (0-2), D Murphy; P O’Shea, D Lyne (0-1); D Rahilly (0-3), P Walsh (0-3, 0-2 frees), K Falvey (0-1); D Geaney (0-5, 0-2 frees), P D’Arcy, M Lenihan. Subs: J O’Connor for D’Arcy (HT), J McCarthy for Lenihan (47), J Kennelly (0-1) for O’Connor (55), K O’Donoghue for Mangan (59), M Cooper for Geaney (62)
Black card: C Flannery (46)
Yellow cards: M Lenihan (30), C Flannery (34)
Red card: C Flannery (46)
Monaghan: R Farrelly; R Grimes, J Doogan, S Hanratty; C Flood, B Og O Dufaigh, M Meehan; J McGarrell, A Moore; A Mulligan (0-4, 0-1 free), S Jones (0-4, 0-4 frees), K Gallagher; D Swinburne (0-1), L Power (0-1), J Irwin (1-1). Subs: O O’Hanlon for Meehan (35), M Mooney (1-0) for McGarrell (35), D Dempsey for Power (48), J Wilson for Gallagher (58)
Yellow cards: M Mooney (50), A Moore (60), R Grimes (66)
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).