GAA Football

Defiant Dubs leave it late again as Jack McCaffrey goal sinks Monaghan

Neil Loughran at St Tiernach's Park, Clones

Allianz Football League One: Monaghan 1-15 Dublin 2-15

THEY’RE not top dogs for no reason and Dublin showed once again in Clones yesterday that, for all their undoubted star quality, they can gut it out better than anybody else too.

Inspired by a Jack McCarron masterclass - the Currin star finished with 1-9, 1-5 of which came from play - Monaghan surged into a six point lead 11 minutes after the break.

Playing with a swagger, the Farneymen looked well placed to do what Donegal, Tyrone and Kerry had threatened earlier in the League by ending the Dubs’ unbeaten streak.

Instead it extends to 36 as, just like they did when trailing Donegal, at a rainswept Croke Park against the Red Hands and then again in Tralee two weeks ago, the Sky Blues came roaring back to grab the lead 12 seconds into added time.

Indeed, when substitute Jack McCaffrey fired high past Rory Beggan to make it 2-14 to 1-14, it was the first time Jim Gavin’s back-to-back All-Ireland winners had got their noses in front all afternoon - another victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Of course, it helps when you can spring the likes of 2015 player of the year McCaffrey, four-time Allstar Bernard Brogan, double Allstar winners Diarmuid Connolly and Cian O’Sullivan, and 2013 player of the year Michael Darragh Macauley from the bench.

“When you’re six points up you always hope you’d be able to see it through but Dublin are a quality team. They’ve come back from that sort of deficit before,” said Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke.

“Dublin were able to bring on fellas with a lot of experience, lads who are very strong and physically powerful. That made a difference as well.”

Dublin boss Jim Gavin might not admit it, but there is bound to be huge concern that the Dubs have been forced into such salvage operations so often already this year.

They have a League final with Kerry to look forward to next Sunday but, in the aftermath of yesterday’s latest great escape, he was unimpressed that they had sailed so close to the wind again.

“We wouldn’t be happy with that performance at all,” said Gavin.

“To put ourselves in that position wouldn’t be acceptable. If we play like that again we’ll have disappointing days ahead.

“We gave an awful lot of ball away, turned an awful lot of ball over, had some poor shot selection. But you’ve got to give credit to a Monaghan team that played a great brand of attacking football and who have some fantastic inside forwards.”

Throughout the League, the pick of those has undoubtedly been McCarron.

Having been plagued by injuries in recent years, it is only now – at 24 years of age – that he has finally announced his arrival at senior level.

Yesterday’s haul took his League tally to 3-29, and talk of Monaghan being over-reliant on Conor McManus has dimmed significantly heading into the Championship.

“He was exceptional,” beamed O’Rourke.

“We were saying before it that as teams get more used to him, it will be that bit harder for him but he still went out and had a really good game. His finishing was top class, and hopefully we’ll keep him injury-free and himself and Conor will cause problems - they’re a fair duo.”

McCarron scored five of the Farney’s seven first half points as Davy Byrne was left chasing shadows, his second of the day sending Monaghan into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after a quarter of an hour.

Three points in four minutes illustrated the Dubs’ ability to make teams pay for any slight lapses in concentration, Brian Fenton, a Dean Rock free and a Paddy Andrews score bringing them level.

Shane Carey had a goal chance but miscontrolled a ball played in by Darren Hughes, and just minutes later the older Hughes brother was controversially black carded for a trip on Fenton.

“From where I was, I didn’t think it was a deliberate foul,” said O’Rourke.

“I thought it was innocuous. It has to be deliberate.”

Two McCarron points, one from a free, sent Monaghan in 0-7 to 0-6 up at the interval but the natives were still restless inside St Tiernach’s Park as referee Joe McQuillan was booed on his way down the tunnel.

The ill feeling carried over into the second half as even the six foot tall Celtic Pure water bottle wagged an accusatory finger at the Cavan whistler upon his return.

At least the Monaghan players had moved on, and when McCarron goaled six minutes after the break there was a growing sense that Dublin’s run was under serious threat.

Played in by Owen Duffy following good work from McManus, McCarron shimmied before rifling a left foot thunderbolt past Stephen Cluxton to take the Farney 1-9 to 0-7 clear.

But as Gavin emptied the bench, bringing on superstar after superstar, it was up to their most famous face to remind people he still has plenty to offer as 32-year-old Brogan - the frame of Rory Beggan becoming larger by the second - coolly slotted into the corner of the net.

Heading into the final 10 Dublin continued to chip away at Monaghan’s lead and, with Farney bodies visibly tiring, the sucker-punch arrived just as the game entered added time.

With space opening up, McCaffrey exchanged passes with the excellent James McCarthy before lashing home to put the seal on yet another smash and grab raid for the men from the capital.

How many lives have the Dubs left to use? Having come so close a fortnight ago, the Kingdom might just fancy the job at Croke Park next Sunday.

Monaghan: R Beggan; F Kelly (0-1), D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walshe, V Corey, K O'Connell (0-1); D Hughes, K Hughes (0-2); D Ward, S Carey, G Doogan; O Duffy (0-1), J McCarron (1-9, 0-4 frees), C McManus (0-1, free). Subs: N McAdam for C Walshe (20), D Malone for O Duffy (54), T Kerr for D Ward (58), C McCarthy for G Doogan (67)

Black card: D Hughes replaced by K Duffy (30)

Yellow cards: J McCarron (26), S Carey (67)

Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon (0-1), M Fitzsimons, D Byrne; J McCarthy (0-2), C Reddin (0-2), E Lowndes; B Fenton (0-1), C Kilkenny (0-1); P Flynn, K McManamon, N Scully; D Rock (0-5, frees), P Andrews (0-2), C McHugh. Subs: B Brogan (1-1) for C McHugh (35), D Connolly for N Scully (HT), J McCaffrey (1-0) for C Reddin (40), P Mannion for K McManamon (47), MD Macauley for P Flynn (65)

Black cards: D Connolly replaced by C O’Sullivan (50)

Yellow cards: S Cluxton (26), B Fenton (27), C Reddin (32)

Ref: J McQuillan (Cavan)

Att: 13,227

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