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Many expected today’s encounter to be a routine victory for Kerry at home to a struggling Monaghan.
The Kingdom had enjoyed a 100 percent record in the Allianz Football League and, though they had been far from convincing at times throughout the campaign, they had also shown flashes of brilliance.
However, Monaghan travelled to Killarney with a point to prove and caused their hosts many problems inside the first half, especially with the work of Conor McManus and Stephen O’Hanlon. They took a two-point lead into the break, and though Kerry levelled the game soon afterwards, it was Monaghan who led by one-point with less than 10 minutes to go.
It was then that Kerry revealed their killer instinct, and showed the character that has them sitting at the top of the Division 1 table. They out-worked, out-thought and out-classed their visitors, scoring six points in the final minutes to emerge with a 0-17 to 0-13 win.
In part six of our Allianz Deep-Dive series, we take a closer look at how Kerry turned on the style in the closing minutes.
61 minutes: Kerry 0-11 Monaghan 0-12
By the 62nd minute, there had been a twelve-minute period during which neither side registered a score. Monaghan were slowly moving the ball up the field, helped by three frees, the last one of which saw Owen Duffy fouled by Seán O’Shea. His quick kick pass to Stephen O’Hanlon was mishandled and Graham O’Sullivan was able to gather possession.
O’Shea trekked back to take the handpass, aided by Tommy Walsh who then found Michael Geaney. As can be seen from the image below, there was a wall of Monaghan jerseys in front of him, and the substitute showed great accuracy and vision to spot the run of Tomás Ó Sé.
With all the defenders having fallen back, Ó Sé found himself with acres of space in front of him.
Exactly 15 seconds after Kerry turned over possession, Ó’ Sé won a free off Dessie Mone, which Sean O’Shea converted to level the game.
63 minutes: Kerry 0-12 Monaghan 0-12
What was evident from the next passage of play, was the Kerry forwards’ use of space. Rory Beggan was given little options for kick outs with everyone inside the Monaghan half being marked very little. Beggan opted to kick to Colin Walshe on the wing but he was beaten to the ball by Paul Murphy who was arguably fouled by the Monaghan corner-back.
The ball spilled forward to O’Shea who linked up nicely, once again with Ó Sé. The An Ghaeltacht man sent the ball back to a completely unmarked Gavin O’Brien who, with plenty of options, handpassed to Shane Enright.
Their quick movement caused chaos among the Monaghan defenders and left Stephen O’Brien wide open in the centre of the pitch. With all the defenders’ eyes on him, Enright sent a kick pass over their heads to O’Brien who rounded Ryan McAnespie and Walshe before comfortably kicking straight between the posts.
64 minutes: Kerry 0-13 Monaghan 0-12
By this stage, the Kingdom had the read of the opposition kick outs. Beggan was forced to go to the other wing, where again it was a Kerry man who won the ball when Gavin O’Brien leaped over Vinny Corey to gather possession. Though there were eight Monaghan jerseys in the picture, they refused to engage with O’Brien who soloed into space before finding O’Shea, who also was afforded the room to kick a diagonal ball to Dara Moynihan on the far wing.
Perhaps tiredness had set in at this point or maybe Kerry were simply too quick with their movement, but the Monaghan defence were slow to engage with the forward and his shot crept over the bar on the near post, just outside the reach of Beggan.
66 minutes: Kerry 0-14 Monaghan 0-13
Monaghan clawed back a point through Walshe but they were also reduced to 14 men during this period when Darren Hughes was sent off on a second yellow card following a clash with Jack Barry.
Kerry worked the ball up from the kick out but when they found themselves in front of goal, Monaghan were awarded a free from the scrum. From that point, the work rate of the Kerry contingent was ferocious to make up for the mistake. Karl O’Connell received the ball but was immediately held up by his opposite number, Tom O’Sullivan, until help arrived in the form of Dermot Malone.
Malone was set upon by Moynihan and O’Shea who badgered him out over the sideline. The latter took the resulting kick, spotting the run of Ó Sé who was subsequently fouled by Gavin Doogan, allowing O’Shea to restore the two-point lead.
68 minutes: Kerry 0-15 Monaghan 0-13
The next point was another example of the sheer work rate and commitment of the Kerry players. Ryan Wylie was in possession of the ball inside the Kerry half but found himself without support and surrounded by three Kerry players, all of whom were forwards who had followed him back, and they were careful not to foul. The referee awarded a free out.
Wylie was then penalised for fouling Ó’Sé. Eager to run down the clock, Kerry were content to keep possession around the midfield until Paul Murphy spotted a gap and called for the ball from Moynihan.
Murphy made a blistering run, breezing past Walshe into his own half-forward line before offloading to Enright who sent a short handpass to Tom O’Sullivan who had wandered up from his wing-back position.
Despite seven defenders being in the frame, O’Sullivan was allowed to carry the ball forward uncontested before tapping it over the bar when a more inexperienced player might have shot for goal.
72 minutes: Kerry 0-16 Monaghan 0-13
The last point of the game was nothing short of magnificent, and again, it came because Kerry forced errors from Monaghan.
Under pressure once again, Beggan’s kick out went straight over the far sideline and O’Shea once again stepped up to take the kick. His audacious effort has Kerry fans comparing him to the legendary Maurice Fitzgerald, after knocking it over from the sideline.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) March 3, 2019
Full-time: Kerry 0-17 Monaghan 0-13
Kerry’s late showing was all the more impressive given the horrendous conditions in Fitzgerald Stadium. At the heart of their effort was Sean O’Shea who was involved in all of the final scores except one. The Kenmare native displayed every facet of his game from his defensive ability, his cleverness in reading the play and his utter class in finishing.
Without question, he is the most in-form player in the game at the moment and with young guns like himself and Tomás Ó Sé, Kerry look a dangerous outfit.
What is worrying from a Monaghan perspective, is the fact that Kerry did nothing spectacular to earn the win. They stuck to their game plan and did the basics right, won their own ball, played it to the man in the right position, and forced frees. It was simple play, yet even when Monaghan were only one-point behind, they showed no urgency to disrupt Kerry.
As this game showed, Kerry are beatable, but teams will need to be on form for the full 70-plus minutes in order to come out on top.