Monaghan's two magic moments earn duel with Dublin
Monaghan 2-16 Kildare 2-14 (after extra-time) All-Ireland SFC qualifier
Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30
Not for the first time in recent years did the Lilywhites, after another late-season epic, leave Croker looking 50 shades of grey and numbly murmuring: "So close and yet so far."
Some dodgy decisions may have cost them in Jones' Road in the past, but it was two flashes of brilliance that finally broke their spirit this time.
Eight minutes into the first period of extra-time Jack McCarron (22), just off the Monaghan bench, slotted a killer point from 50 metres out with his left foot that defied his youth and the biblically wet conditions.
A minute later Kieran Hughes, out wide on the left wing, looked up and saw Chrissy McGuinness loitering close to the Hill 16 goal.
Between the torrential rain, the fading light and the ticking clock, to spot him took night-vision goggles and then, with icy veins, Hughes floated over the perfect, diagonal 30-metre pass.
When McGuinness got possession, he still had work to do, but expertly dummied two men before pulling the trigger, deliberately going low to beat goalkeeper Mark Donnellan.
Kildare's heartbroken post-mortems will inevitably agonise over a few other key moments, like Emmet Bolton's inestimably costly black card, and whether Ollie Lyons fouled Conor McManus for the 72nd-minute free that earned Monaghan their extra-time reprieve. But, in the end, they simply couldn't match those scores.
Two pieces of sublime football precision cut them open just when their confidence had dipped and that, ultimately, was what bagged Monaghan's history boys their first championship win at HQ in 84 years and a quarter-final lash at the Dubs next Saturday.
Whoever could land the first serious blow in extra-time was destined to snatch victory after such an exhausting, sodden battle.
The Ulster men, vitally, produced two great bits of skill, to win that first extra period by 1-2 to 0-1 and snatch a four-point lead (2-15 to 2-11).
Kildare had a few subsequent chances – Eoin Doyle forced a decent save from Rory Beggan in the 86th minute and Alan Smith had a last-gasp chance over the bar.
But their shots were under much more pressure, crowded out by Monaghan's never-say-die defence that included two magnificent blocks in a row from the Hughes brothers in the dying minutes.
In truth, the Lilies had enough chances to close out this marathon battle earlier, but didn't take them.
A great Hughie Lynch point gave them a four-point lead immediately after half-time (2-6 to 0-8), which they should have built upon.
Yes, they then lost their most influential player to a tough black card.
Steven Gollogly knocked Bolton over initially and the Kildare man grabbed him more through instinct than intention, but referee David Coldrick accepted no mitigation.
Bolton had given Kildare a fine start with 2-1 by the 24th minute, so his loss was a massive one. Yet, minutes after his dismissal, Eamonn Callaghan missed a great chance for a third goal, hitting the woodwork after Eoin Doyle found him unmarked with just the 'keeper to beat.
After conceding a brilliant chipped goal to Vinny Corey to go two down with 20 minutes of proper time left, they still grabbed back the initiative and really should have finished it off.
Callaghan levelled it in the 68th minute and when Eoghan O'Flaherty started and finished a move with a fantastic point to put them one ahead in the 70th minute, it looked like Kildare had bagged their sixth quarter-final appearance.
But Monaghan got one more throw of the dice and David Coldrick had to make another big call – a short 72nd free which McManus slotted to take it into extra-time (2-10 to 1-13).
Action replays on similarly momentous occasions in the recent past have often shown Kildare to have been robbed by poor refereeing decisions, but not this time.
Ollie Lyons, who had a brilliant game on Monaghan's sharpshooter, did his level best not to foul him, but he did. On such tiny incidents do big games swing and that late reprieve threw the initiative back to Monaghan, who didn't waste it.
Midfield was a complete spaghetti junction, yet Kildare dominated it, spilled very little ball throughout and still lost.
Hugh McGrillen, Lyons, Keith Cribbin, Tommy Moolick, O'Flaherty and Alan Smith (who kept All Star Colin Walshe very busy) were terrific at times, and Doyle and Padraig Fogarty did well off the bench.
They outplayed Monaghan on break ball and scores from play, but not, vitally, on free-taking or leadership and their almost exclusively short kick-out policy put them on the back foot too often.
Gollogly played a big part when he came on, Corey, the Hughes brothers and McGuinness were also immense and, as man of the match Dessie Mone observed, Monaghan scraped through on "pure heart and teamwork".
Scorers: Monaghan: C McGuinness 1-3, C McManus 0-5 (5fs), P Finlay 0-4 (4fs), V Corey 1-0, D Wylie, F Kelly, D Hughes, Jack McCarron 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), P O'Neill, H Lynch, N Kelly and E O'Callaghan 0-1 each.
Monaghan: R Beggan 7; C Boyle 6, D Wylie 7, C Walshe 6; D Mone 8, V Corey 8, F Kelly 6; D Clerkin 5, D Hughes 7; P McKenna 6, C McGuinness 8, P Finlay 7; T Kerr 5, K Hughes 8, C McManus 7. Subs: S Gollogly 8 for Clerkin, G Doogan 6 for Kerr (half-time), K O'Connell 5 for McKenna (55), R Wylie 6 for Boyle (65), J McCarron 7 for Doogan (69). Extra-time: McCarron for Finlay (78), Doogan for Mone (black card 90)
Kildare: M Donnellan 7; C Fitzpatrick 5, H McGrillen 7, O Lyons 7; E Bolton 7, F Conway 6, K Cribbin 7; T Moolick 7, P O'Neill 6; C McNally 5, H Lynch 6, E Callaghan 6; A Smith 7, P Brophy 6, E O'Flaherty 7. Subs: E Doyle 7 for Bolton (black card 38), N Kelly 6 for Lynch (51), T O'Connor 6 for McNally (53), S Hurley 5 for Brophy (66), D Hyland 5 for Cribbin (71). Extra-time: P Fogarty 6 for O'Connor (77), M Foley 6 for McGrillen (79), M Conway for F Conway (85).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).
Monaghan v Kildare: the game at a glance
Man of the match
Dessie Mone (Monaghan): Chrissie McGuinness was another strong contender, but no Monaghan man handled more ball (32 times) or did it with so much calm authority, as the tireless Clontibret defender.
Emmet Bolton's black card. Apart from the fact that he had already scored 2-1 from play, the Eadestown man has been Kildare's engine this year, so losing his ability to drive their attack was a massive blow.
Just how hard the seven-day turnaround is going to be for Monaghan. Going to extra-time, in such energy-sapping conditions, makes facing the might of a well-rested Dublin even harder.
Kieran Hughes' perfectly floated pass, for Chris McGuinness' decisive goal in extra-time. Having the vision to see and to deliver it when everyone was out on their feet was brilliant.
David Coldrick was rock solid. Given the weather, he used his whistle sparingly (only 44 frees) and while Bolton's black and the 70th minute foul on McManus were borderline, he got both right.
What they said
Malachy O'Rourke (Monaghan manager): "In extra-time a goal was always going to be a big score. Chrissy took it well, it just gave us that cushion that unless we did something stupid or conceded a goal, we were going to win. We had a couple of scares, but we managed to hold out."
Jason Ryan (Kildare manager): "We had opportunities (in extra-time) but I think, when we reflect back on it, we had our best chances in normal time. I'm very proud of how the players played. They were written off coming into this game and Monaghan were very strong favourites."
Monaghan 15 (12)
Kildare 12 (9)
Monaghan 24 (18);
Kildare 17 (14).
Monaghan 1 (Mone 90)
Kildare 1 (Bolton 38)
Monaghan 2 (McKenna 49, K Hughes 50) Kildare 4 (Lyons 30, Moolick 50, Smith 87)
Monaghan play Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final on Saturday (6.0) but Kildare's ongoing search for the Sam Maguire Cup is over for another year.