RORY Beggan found himself in an unusual spot on Saturday evening – as a goalkeeper being praised for two superb saves that helped Monaghan hold Kildare at bay to secure a mouth-watering All-Ireland quarter-final date with Ulster rivals Armagh.
The Scotstown man has been among the market leaders as a sweeper-keeper revolution changed the face of Gaelic football in recent years, with his kicking – and ability to join play – an invaluable asset to the Farney.
Beggan pulled out the pitching wedge to effortlessly split the posts from a 40 metre free in the first half, before pushing into the middle of the field when the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final at Glenisk O’Connor Park hung in the balance late on.
But his greatest contribution to Monaghan’s All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final win came back at base camp – when diving right to palm away Daniel Flynn’s deflected effort in the opening minutes, before a strong left hand kept out Neil Flynn’s goal-bound effort at the other end of the first half.
“That’s your job, first and foremost,” he said.
“Maybe that gets forgotten sometimes with all the kicking and joining the play, but our first job is to keep the goals out. Some days you save them, some days you don’t, but I’d a feeling Daniel Flynn was going for it - he’s that sort of player who backs himself in that situation.
“It’s good to keep them out and keep us in the hunt.”
And, coming off the back of a dispiriting defeat to Donegal seven days earlier, the 31-year-old admitted some “harsh truths” were shared in the days after as Monaghan were left facing an away day – albeit one with a difference.
“We got really lucky that this isn’t a home venue for Kildare.
“Our minors were playing before and brought a serious crowd down – it was brilliant to have that roar of the minors winning, getting to an All-Ireland final for the first time in a long time, then the crowd shouting you on really helps in those tight moments.
“It was tough last Saturday but we met up on Monday, had a couple of chats, a couple of harsh truths, and made sure we weren’t going to be on the wrong side of it today.”
Beggan sought refuge in the Tullamore tunnel moments after Conor McCarthy’s 75th minute winner – “you give gloves to one kid, the rest of them are giving out then” – but, even after so long on the road with the Farneymen, and the run of late, late shows that have defined the second half of their season, it is important to take stock.
“We’re out again next week,” he smiled, “I just want to get in and savour this here…”
Division One safety was secured courtesy of more last-day heroics on an unforgettable April day in Castlebar, before Ryan O’Toole’s goal at the death sent Tyrone tumbling out the Ulster Championship exit door weeks later.
Karl O’Connell came up trumps with a late leveller to deny Derry in the All-Ireland round-robin stages, then McCarthy who stepped up to stun the Lilywhites, sending the Farney into a first All-Ireland quarter-final since 2018.
Like Vinny Corey, Beggan believes there is plenty more to come from Monaghan – but a group drawn from so many who have soldiered together for years, and a spirited side made in their manager’s image, will fancy Saturday evening’s clash with Armagh in Croke Park.
“Vinny was like that as a player - he put everything into it, and he’s instilling that in us.
“I know we’ve done it in previous years too under ‘Banty’ [Seamus McEnaney], but there’s a lot of young players coming in there who have won stuff and they don’t know how to really quit.
“We have the experience obviously of a few last day heroics in the National League, that pays off when you come to Championship and you’re still going hard in the 74th minute.
“To be fair, Conor [McCarthy] has been brilliant all year, so consistent… it’s probably his most consistent year with Monaghan. It was the right man in the right position.
“He scored a big one before that to get us level, and then to kick the winner, I’m delighted for him. He’s put in serious work this year and it’s paying off now.”