Class act O'Sullivan keeps Kingdom in final shake-up
Kerry were expecting to hear that despite producing a highly effective performance in Inniskeen, their prospects of reaching the Division 1 final had been snuffed out by Cork in Castlebar.
Instead, they left the pitch to the good news that Mayo had done them a big favour by beating Cork, a result which keeps Kerry in the hunt for the second final spot when they host Down next Sunday.
Granted, they would need to win while Cork would have to drop a point to Armagh, but at least it ensures that Kerry are in contention on the last day of the divisional games.
"That's what we want, more competitive games," said Jack O'Connor. The manager was well pleased with yesterday's overall performance where Kerry secured victory with a powerful second-quarter surge which took them into the interval with a 1-9 to 0-1 lead.
They had played with a strong wind and while it took them 10 minutes to land their first score and another 10 to really assert themselves, they finished strongly, hitting 1-5 in the closing 10 minutes of the half.
By their own admission, Monaghan were playing for pride in the second half as there was never the remotest possibility that they would clear out an 11-point lead.
"The lads put in a huge effort in the second half which was very encouraging, but we had left ourselves with far too much to do after the first half. Their goal was a real killer," said Monaghan manager Eamonn McEneaney.
It came right on the stroke of half-time, scored by Declan O'Sullivan whose clever positioning outwitted the Monaghan defence. He had earlier scored two points in what was a welcome return to full-time action. Paul Galvin was back too and turned in a hugely energetic performance.
"It was good to get that sort of mileage into their legs," said O'Connor, who will have been pleased with the overall attacking effort, which didn't include the absent Colm Cooper.
Kieran Donaghy made some fine fetches and while he didn't score, he set up quite a few points despite the best efforts of young Monaghan full-back Kieran Duffy, who stuck bravely to one of the toughest tasks in the game.
Corner-forwards Kieran O'Leary and David Geaney did well too as did midfielders David Moran and Anthony Maher, even if both will have unpleasant memories of their trip north.
Moran limped off at the three-quarter stage after twisting his knee while Maher was sent off -- rather harshly -- on a second yellow card in the 66th minute.
The seeds of Monaghan's fifth successive defeat were sown in the first half when, after making a lively start, they were over-run by Kerry, who attacked from all angles.
It took Monaghan 32 minutes to kick their first score (Owen Duffy), a statistic which gives a false impression of their endeavours if not their execution. They enjoyed plenty of possession early on but made little constructive use of it.
Quite often they were forced into tight corners and dispossessed, while there were also several examples of aimless kicking.
"We had 13 shots in the first half and converted only one -- that tells its own story," said McEneaney.
Five of those were wides while others either dropped into the welcoming arms of Kerry goalkeeper Tomas Mac an tSaoir or landed left or right of goal where they were collected by Marc O Se and Co.
"The harm was done in the first half. When you give Kerry that sort of lead, you know you're in trouble," said McEneaney, who restructured his side for the second half, introducing Darren Hughes at midfield and Tommy Freeman in attack.
Freeman pointed in the opening seconds and certainly increased the workload on the Kerry defence, while Hughes improved matters at midfield which had been well beaten in the second quarter.
Monaghan outscored Kerry 6-1 in the first 20 minutes of the half to cut the deficit to six points but it was as close as they got. O'Leary pointed a Kerry free in the 59th minute and they added three more on the run-in. Monaghan pressed on as best they could but without any real prospect of getting in for the goals which represented their only hope of rescuing the situation.
It was a satisfactory outing for Kerry, made all the sweeter by the news that their prospects of reaching the final were intact, albeit in need of some help from Armagh.
As for Monaghan, they are still in with a chance of avoiding relegation if they beat Mayo next Sunday. They probably wouldn't have targeted the Kerry game as a source of points in their pre-season calculations and once they found themselves playing against the wind in the first half yesterday, they were always headed for trouble.
"The biggest problem in this league was that when we got our chances against Armagh and Dublin we didn't make them count. Having said that, a lot of lads have done very well for us. Even today, it was good to see so much spirit after falling 11 points behind," said McEneaney.
Injury problems take a heavy toll on counties like Monaghan who are dealing from a smaller hand than the major powers, a factor which again played a significant role in shaping yesterday's game.
Kerry's deeper talent pool stood to them as they won their fourth game in the league. Equally importantly, the panel is taking shape nicely just ahead of the championship.
"There's going to be fierce competition to get into the squad of 26," said O'Connor. It's just as he likes it.
Man of the match: Declan O'Sullivan (Kerry)
Scorers -- Kerry: Declan O'Sullivan 1-2, D Geaney 0-4 (2f), K O'Leary 0-3 (2f), N O'Mahony 0-2, D Moran, A Maher, P Galvin 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 0-4 (4f), O Duffy, T Freeman, C McGuinness, C Walshe, M Downey, B O'Brien, S Smyth 0-1 each.
Kerry -- Mac an tSaoir 7; P Reidy 7, M O Se 7, A O'Connell 6; A O'Mahony 7, K Young 6, D Bohan 6; D Moran 7, A Maher 7; P Galvin 7, Darran O'Sullivan 7, Declan O'Sullivan 8; K O'Leary 7, K Donaghy 7, D Geaney 7. Subs: S Scanlon 6 for Moran (52), B McGuire 6 for Bohan (55), S Enright 6 for O'Connell (55), G O'Driscoll for O'Leary (66), N O'Mahony for Darran O'Sullivan (66).
Monaghan -- M Keogh 6; C Brady 6, K Duffy 6, C Walshe 6; C Galligan 5, D Mone 7, David Hughes 5; D Clerkin 7, N McAdam 5; D Malone 5, M Downey 6, J Turley 5; C McGuinness 6, O Duffy 5, C McManus 6. Subs: Darren Hughes 7 for Malone (h-t), T Freeman 7 for Turley (h-t), B O'Brien 6 for O Duffy (52), D Morgan 5 for Brady (60), S Smyth for McGuinness (65).
Ref -- C Reilly (Meath).