Chris McGuinness settles thriller in Farney's favour
Monaghan 2-16 Kildare 2-14
Monaghan pressed the self-destruct button, but searched deep inside troubled souls for the survival instinct, and ultimately the mental strength to win a punishing Round 4 qualifier tie at Croke Park last night.
They had to go all the way to extra-time before finally seeing off a stubborn Kildare side to make it through to a second successive All-Ireland quarter-final and a clash with champions Dublin next weekend.
Vinny Corey's second-half goal sealed a win that looked highly unlikely when they conceded two goals late in the first period. This was a historic breakthrough for the Ulster men on the occasion of their first championship win at Croke Park in 84 years.
To replenish the spirits following their provincial final defeat to Donegal was always going to be a challenge, but they were as strong in mind as in body as they went about their business in the efficient manner we have come to expect from a regimentally organised Farney outfit.
A second successive quarter-final appearance sets up a clash with All-Ireland champions Dublin next weekend. Monaghan will take heart from last night's dismissal of the Lilywhites, but it will be difficult to contrive a persuasive argument to convince their sceptical supporters that they have the armoury to take out the might of the Dubs.
True, they have displayed resilience and character in putting the disappointment of losing their Ulster crown behind them, but it would be fanciful to expect that they can cope with the ferocity and quality the Sam Maguire Cup holders will bring to Croke Park's table on Saturday.
Monaghan's sweeper system failed the test on two occasions inside a five-minute spell of first half madness.
Paudie McKenna's protection of his full back line proved an effective impediment to an orthodox attacking strategy, but their failure to track the marauding runs from deep of Emmet Bolton demanded a heavy price.
The danger signs had already been flagged up when the Eadestown man slotted over an early point, but he was allowed to drift in to nail two goals in the 19th and 24th minutes.
The first was a classic, blasted to the top corner of the net from Alan Smith's perfectly timed pass.
Bolton drifted forward again five minutes later to spoon Cathal McNally's cross to the net, and the Lilywhites led by five.
Earlier, Conor McManus, double-teamed each time he was targeted with any kind of quality ball, had knocked over a free, and Chris McGuinness also found the target, but those scores were cancelled out by Smith and Eoghan O'Flaherty.
Fergal Conway mopped up a good deal of careless ball, and while Kieran Hughes helped Monaghan win ample possession around midfield, they had neither the penetrative qualities nor the ingenuity to break down Kildare's defensive wall.
Paul Finlay did angle over a couple of frees, but McGuinness was the only Farney attacker to score from play in the first half.
They went in at the break trailing by 2-5 to 0-8, after Padraig O'Neill and O'Flaherty, both of whom were also afforded generous amounts of space, had added to Kildare's lot with eye-catching scores.
But two-goal hero Bolton turned villain just two minutes into the second half when he was shown a black card for hauling down Stephen Gollogly.
Kildare should have had a third goal when Eoin Doyle picked out Eamonn Callaghan in acres of space, but his curling shot clipped the wrong side of the far post.
The beaten Ulster finalists compensated in doggedness for what they lacked in finesse and organisation, and dragged themselves back into the game, McManus and Finlay unerringly reliable with free kick opportunities.
By the 46th minute they had trimmed the deficit back to a single point, assisted in no small way by Kildare's wasteful finishing.
For once, McManus managed to escape the shackles of Ollie Lyons and Fergal Conway to gather possession out on the right, and spotted Vinny Corey's run.
The pass was perfectly timed and the centre back finished with the artistry of a top attacker, giving Mark Donnellan no chance as the ball shook the net at the Canal End.
Moments later, Darren Hughes could have had another, but sliced his shot wide. However, they were now performing with much greater cohesion than a Kildare side that was looking around for leaders.
Monaghan, on the other hand, had Dessie Mone, Corey and Darren Hughes taking on responsibility and leading by example. Fintan Kelly edged them into a two-point lead, but the Lilywhites dug deep, fighting their way back to go level with a brilliant point from Eamonn Callaghan, before O'Flaherty, back on the field after being substituted, kicked the lead point.
There was still time for McManus to level with a free to send the game to extra-time on a 2-10 to 1-13 scoreline, and Monaghan made mighty strides in the first period of added time, McGuinness collecting Kieran Hughes' cross to steer a low shot past Donnellan for a 2-15 to 2-11 interval lead.
Eoin Doyle brought a terrific save from Beggan, and Padraig Fogarty converted the resultant '45', but heroic defending from Mone, Corey and Hughes held it together for Monaghan.
Scorers - Monaghan: C McGuinness 1-3, V Corey 1-0, C McManus 0-5 (5f), P Finlay 0-4 (4f), F Kelly, D Hughes, J McCarron, D Wylie 0-1 each. Kildare: E Bolton 2-1, E O'Flaherty 0-4 (1f), A Smith 0-3, P Fogarty 0-2 (1f, 1 '45), H Lynch, N Kelly, P O'Neill, E Callaghan 0-1 each.
Monaghan: R Beggan, R Wylie, D Wylie, C Walshe, D Mone, V Corey, F Kelly, D Clerkin, D Hughes, P McKenna, S Gollogly, P Finlay, T Kerr, K Hughes, C McManus. Subs: S Gollogly for Clerkin (h-t), G Doogan for Kerr (h-t), K O'Connell for McKenna (55), R Wylie for Boyle (65), K Duffy for Doogan (69), J McCarronf or Finlay (77), Doogan for Mone (BC, 89))
Kildare: M Donnellan, C Fitzpatrick, H McGrillen, O Lyons, E Bolton, F Conway, K Cribbin, T Moolick, P O'Neill, C McNally, H Lynch, E Callaghan, A Smith, P Brophy, E O'Flaherty. Subs: E Doyle for Bolton (37), G White for Lynch (40), N Kelly for White (50), T O'Connor for McNally (53), S Hurley for O'Flaherty (59), O'Flaherty for Hurley (62), S Hurley for Brophy (65), D Hylanbd for Cribbin (70), P Fogarty for O'Connor (77), M Conway for F Conway (84)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).
Sunday Indo Sport