Saturday 23 September 2017

Dublin conjure up fightback to edge out brave Monaghan and secure final place in Clones thriller

Monaghan 1-15 Dublin 2-15

Brian Fenton of Dublin blocks a shot on goal by Conor McManus of Monaghan, resulting in a free to Monagahan, during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 7 match between Monaghan and Dublin at St. Tiernach's Park in Clones, Co Monaghan. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Brian Fenton of Dublin blocks a shot on goal by Conor McManus of Monaghan, resulting in a free to Monagahan, during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 7 match between Monaghan and Dublin at St. Tiernach's Park in Clones, Co Monaghan. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Frank Roche

Frank Roche

IT'S official: you will need a necklace of garlic, a wooden stake, plus a silver bullet … and then maybe, just maybe, you might kill off the Dubs.

Today's utterly absorbing Allianz Football League showdown in Clones was the most compelling evidence to date that Jim Gavin's All-Ireland champions don't know when they are beaten.

Twice during the third quarter of this St Tiernach's Park thriller, watched by 13,227 rapt witnesses, an ebullient Monaghan led by six points … and still they lost.

Jack McCarron must wonder how that is so. The Currin clubman has been irrepressible this spring but this was his finest hour to date: by the 58th minute he had 1-9 to his name, 1-5 from play.

And still he lost.

How was that so? Well, partly because the hosts probably ran out of gas, reflected in some damaging turnovers in the fourth quarter; but even more so because Dublin regrouped in the face of crisis and found a way.

Crucial to their comeback was Bernard Brogan's goal on 48 minutes, clinically tucked away after Ciaran Kilkenny created the opening.

That cut their deficit to three points, and they eventually drew level via a Dean Rock free in the 67th minute. 

With the stage set for a grandstand finish, another Dublin sub – Jack McCaffrey – delivered. Some 12 seconds into the allotted four minutes of stoppage time, the 2015 Footballer of the Year advanced deep into Monaghan terrain and played a one-two with James McCarthy before roofing a shot beyond Rory Beggan.

Incredibly, it was the first time Dublin had led.

The Farney men rallied through a Fintan Kelly point, but Brogan quickly replied at the other end to seal a memorable three-point victory. They now advance to next Sunday's Division 1 decider, chasing an incredible fifth consecutive spring title.

If Gavin was looking for a full-blooded test of Sky Blue mettle, in the wake of last weekend's facile rout of Roscommon, then he wasn't disappointed.

The first half was full-blooded, at times fractious, and in many ways riveting. Monaghan started like a team intent on making an April statement and, in the process, leapfrogging the All-Ireland champions into the final.

The recently on-fire McCarron opened their account in the third minute, scoring from 35 metres off his weaker right foot, and that set the first half trend of Monaghan edging ahead and Dublin battling back to parity.

After Ciaran Reddin had equalised, Monaghan struck three on the bounce (via Karl O'Connell, a superb curling effort from Kieran Hughes and a McCarron free) … but then the visitors replied with a hat-trick of their own, from Brian Fenton, a Dean Rock free and Paddy Andrews.

Both sides spurned goal chances, too. Kevin McManamon released Rock only for his angled effort to be diverted into the side netting. At the other end, Darren Hughes' through ball released Shane Carey in oceans of space only for the Monaghan No 11 to spill possession. 

As the half progressed, so too did tensions and tempers rise. Stephen Cluxton and McCarron were booked for some 'afters' in the wake of Carey's fumble. Then Fenton saw yellow for interfering with Darren Hughes's attempted sideline ball. Soon after, Hughes was black-carded for a foot trip on Fenton - much to the Monaghan midfielder's obvious fury.  

McCarron's fifth point of the half, from a free, ensured that Monaghan enjoyed a 0-7 to 0-6 interval lead. The drama was only starting …

SCORERS - Dublin: D Rock 0-4f, B Brogan 1-1, J McCaffrey 1-0, C Reddin, P Andrews, J McCarthy 0-2 each, B Fenton, C Kilkenny, P McMahon 0-1 each. Monaghan: J McCarron 1-9 (4f), K Hughes 0-2, K O'Connell, C McManus (f), F Kelly 0-1 each.

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, D Byrne, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C Reddin, E Lowndes; B Fenton, C Kilkenny; P Flynn, K McManamon, N Scully; D Rock, P Andrews, C McHugh. Subs: B Brogan for McHugh (35), D Connolly for Scully (ht), J McCaffrey for Reddin (41), P Mannion for McManamon (47), C O'Sullivan for Connolly (BC 50), MD Macauley for Flynn (65).

MONAGHAN: R Beggan; F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; D Ward, V Corey, K O'Connell; D Hughes, K Hughes; C Walshe, S Carey, G Doogan; O Duffy, J McCarron, C McManus. Subs: N McAdam for Walshe (inj 20), K Duffy for D Hughes (BC 30), D Malone for O Duffy (54), T Kerr for Ward (59), C McCarthy for Doogan (68).

REF: J McQuillan (Cavan)

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