GAA Football

Kerry make most of eerie Inniskeen to see off Monaghan in League restart

Monaghan's Micheal Bannigan is chased by Kerry’s Séan O’Shea and Tom O’Sullivan during Saturday's Division One clash in Inniskeen. Picture by MonoPix
Neil Loughran in Inniskeen

Allianz National Football League Division One: Monaghan 0-14 Kerry 0-17

THE last time Kerry travelled up to Inniskeen, in 2018, the reception couldn’t have been any hotter. Having been kept on ice by the frost the previous weekend, the Kingdom were welcomed to Grattan Park on a mucky, miserable February day by a crowd of 4,000-plus Monaghan supporters ready to shake the rafters.

Cars lined the road on either side as the Kerry team bus trundled along the back roads, trying to avoid claiming too many wing mirrors along the way. Once there, it soon became clear that the big boys were no longer in Kansas.

The roar that greeted the Farneymen as they bounded from the tunnel was something you don’t get too often in National League football – raw, guttural, and seemingly never-ending. You couldn’t escape the fervour, or the flailing limbs, of the bodies all around you.

Inniskeen is just the perfect venue for these kind of games, and it came as no surprise that Monaghan sent their exulted opponents back down the road with nothing but bumps, bruises and a few wounded egos.

On Saturday afternoon, a cavalcade of sponsored cars with KY registrations – including David Clifford’s nifty wee Mazda CX-30, bearing his name on both passenger doors – beat an uninhibited path from the Nuremore Hotel, about 10 minutes away, to an empty Grattan Park.

When the Monaghan players ran out of the tunnel a quarter of an hour before throw-in to herald the triumphant return of inter-county action after a seven month lay-off, they were greeted by the deafening sound of silence.

Barring the shouts and hollers of Kerry coach James Foley at the other end of the field, there was just… nothing. Even the handful of young lads whose heads had popped above the bushes at the back of the ground kept schtum throughout for fear of being told to take themselves off.

Therefore it came as no surprise that, this time around, Kerry were the ones who rose to the occasion – or lack of it, the occasional moment of brilliance from David Clifford illuminating an otherwise lukewarm encounter.

Three points was the winning margin in the end but, in truth, that probably slightly flattered Monaghan in the end.

Perhaps because of the strangely sterile surrounds, they just didn’t get to the pitch of the game quickly enough as Peter Keane’s men sauntered into a three point lead courtesy of scores from Clifford (2) and Tony Brosnan.

By the halfway mark that had been pushed out to four. Even though Monaghan won all their own kick-outs and probably broke about even in the possession stakes, the pace of the Kerry counter - led by the buccaneering bursts of Gavin Whyte - the thriftiness of their turnovers and their greater efficiency in front of the posts left them 0-10 to 0-6 to the good.

The Farneymen, meanwhile, were a bit toothless, particularly in that opening 35.

Andrew Woods, playing on his home patch, looked lively and landed the Farney’s first score when he easily side-stepped Jason Foley before slotting over. However, with a knee injury ruling Jack McCarron out for the year and Conor McCarthy on the periphery before being replaced at half-time, it must be a concern for Seamus McEnaney to see just how reliant Monaghan still are on Conor McManus.

The Clontibret sharpshooter’s presence alone gave Kerry plenty to think about, and two of the three scores he landed from play after being sprung from the bench were right out of the top drawer. On the big days, they simply can’t afford not to have him at his best.

Three wides and a Ryan McAnespie shot dropped into Shane Ryan’s hands before Kerry got the first score of the second half took the wind from the Monaghan challenge, the Kingdom holding them at arm’s length for the rest of the game.

Clifford majestically curled over the best score of the day in added time to seal the deal, leaving Monaghan needing a victory over already-relegated Meath to keep alive hopes of securing their Division One status.

It felt slightly at odds with the national mood to be totting up points and looking at league tables though, while the results of the Gaelic Players’ Association survey on Friday indicated that one in four inter-county players would rather not proceed with the Championship in two weeks’ time.

Both Keane and McEnaney, though, said there had been no concern raised among their groups.

“I couldn’t understand the logic of that the day before the thing,” said the Kerry boss.

“They’ve had two months or whatever, I just didn’t think that made sense. Did I see that the game was in doubt? No, I didn’t.”

McEnaney, meanwhile, insisted he saw “no grey area” as far as the resumption of the inter-county season was concerned.

“The National League and Championship is very important for the mental health of a lot of people in the country,” he said.

“First of all our players, their families, second of all the people who will watch the GAA this weekend. We need that. The country needs that.

“We’re in a very safe environment. We have a very strong medical team and the protocols are very strict within our group. If every county team runs that way, we’ll get through this.”

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-1, 0-1 free); C Boyle, R Wylie; K Duffy; D Ward (0-1), F Kelly (0-1, mark), K O'Connell; D Hughes, K Hughes (0-1), D Malone; M Bannigan (0-1, free), R McAnespie, S Carey; C McCarthy, A Woods (0-1). Subs: C McManus (0-5, 0-2 frees) for McCarthy (HT), S O’Hanlon (0-1) for Malone (50), C McGuinness (0-2, 0-1 mark) for Woods (51), J McKenna for O’Connell (61), D Wylie for McAnespie (63)

Kerry: S Ryan; J Foley (0-1), T Morley; T O’Sullivan (0-1); P Murphy (0-1), P Crowley, G White (0-1); D Moran (0-1), D O’Connor (0-1), R Buckley; M Burns, S O’Shea (0-2, 0-1 45), D Moynihan; T Brosnan (0-3), D Clifford (0-6, 0-2 mark, 0-1 free). Subs: J Lyne for Burns (51), B O Beaglaoich for Moynihan (60), P Clifford for Buckley (68), K Spillane for Brosnan (71), T Walsh for Moran (73)

Yellow card: D Moynihan (55)

Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)

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GAA Football