Farney finishing has to improve as Division One leaders Kerry arrive at Inniskeen
Allianz National Football League Division One: Monaghan v Kerry (tomorrow, Inniskeen, 2pm)
FIVE more points over their three games and Monaghan would have been sitting at the top of the National League, not third-from-bottom. That's how fine the margins are in Division One.
Poor shooting has cost the Farneymen three wins this season and they simply have to get that right on home soil tomorrow.
This is a massive game for Seamus McEnaney's men because after it they have to travel to Donegal, then Kildare and they finish their campaign against a Dublin side that should be back to somewhere near full strength and will be desperate for points after their terrible start to the season.
So this is a crossroads game for Monaghan and they must find a way to win it.
Conor McManus's availability is obviously a massive boost. McManus was sent off against Armagh last Saturday night but the red card has been over-turned on appeal and he'll take his place in the full-forward line alongside Jack McCarron.
Losing McManus – who was sent off for an off-the-ball foul by Barry Cassidy – and then Dessie Ward to a black card were serious bodyblows to Monaghan in Armagh so, when all's said and done, a draw was a good result for McEnaney's side.
However, one point would have been two if Monaghan had taken even a few of the steady stream of chances the midfield industry of Darren Hughes and the driving runs of Ryan McAnespie helped to create.
They'll need to tomorrow against a Kerry side that posted 1-15 against Dublin and 1-13 against Donegal – Monaghan's best tally so far has been 1-11 in a losing cause against Mayo at Clones.
After a first round draw with Kildare, two wins on-the-trot have raised Jack O'Connor's Kerry to the top of the table on scoring difference and they beat Donegal despite leaving David Clifford out of the starting line-up.
After inspiring the University of Limerick to the Sigerson Cup title, the Fossa star scored 6-21 in five matches, Clifford started on the bench last Sunday but he was introduced in the second half and contributed 1-1. His brother Paudie said this week that Kerry were determined to “right the wrongs of last year” and are still smarting from their loss to Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final.
"It was tough to take,” he said.
“We've identified a few things [to improve on] and we're working away on them; small things really, but we have definitely identified a few problems. I'm not going to go into specifics... there's a few.
"All we can do is try to right the wrongs of last year.
"I wouldn't say we're confident - more hopeful. We know how competitive it is. I've never seen Division One as competitive. There's going to be no easy games, and there'll be no easy games in the Championship either."
Four of Kerry's five points have been earned on home soil and travelling to Monaghan tomorrow will certainly test them. They won in Inniskeen in 2020, avenging a loss at the same venue two years' previously when McManus and McCarron had scored 1-7 between them. Monaghan won three out of four at home that year and over the last five seasons it's been their home form that has kept them water-tight in Division One.
They need to continue that tomorrow against a Kerry side that travels north top of the table and will want to stay there. Monaghan should create enough chances to win the game but the question is: Can they take them? They haven't been able to do that so far this season so, while you wouldn't rule out a draw, Kerry's greater firepower means they get the nod to go home with the points.