O'Rourke knows his men 'must improve' as Monaghan survive Carlow scare
Monaghan 1-12 Carlow 1-7
The last Division 4 team bowed out of the 2017 All-Ireland, but Carlow, one of the big stories of the summer, died with their boots on before finally being overcome in the closing stages at Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday.
A crowd of 6,124, including a good chunk who travelled from Monaghan, got plenty of entertainment on a warm summer's evening and for an hour it seemed like they were about to witness a huge upset.
Monaghan, though, hardened by a qualifier loss in their own backyard to Longford last year, never lost their nerve and they finished strongly to bring Carlow's wonderful summer to an end.
Carlow hadn't played five championship matches in a summer since the glory year of 1944 when they won their only Leinster SFC title and the key for them now will be to build on this progress.
Top priority will be to tie down manager Turlough O'Brien, whose three-year term ended on Saturday and who indicated afterwards he would need to review things.
"My three years are over today so we'll see. We'll see what happens in the future," said O'Brien, although he has no doubt about what Carlow need to do next.
"Get out of Division 4, get out of Division 4, that division is so hard to get out of. We need to be playing teams like this to improve. We have the footballers.
"We are a Division 4 team and we were playing one of the top teams in the country. Look, it's bitterly disappointing to lose it, to be quite honest with you. We didn't come for a good performance or a moral victory, we wanted to win the game and that's the way we set about it. We were very close to doing that.
"It's outrageous, this thing about B championships just annoys me, it sickens me, to be quite honest. Any team that prepares properly can compete in the All-Ireland championship, there's no doubt about it. I think that game should be a lesson to everyone in the lower ranked counties that you can compete if you get your act together instead of throwing in the towel before the championship has started at all, which is what's happened in Leinster.
"There needs to be a rethink in the counties, and it should be to compete, not to be looking for B championships and handy trophies."
His men were in with a glorious chance of victory when their packed defence held Monaghan to 0-5 to 0-3 in the opening half, when the visitors had the wind.
Monaghan shot eight wides in that opening half and then just before the break the impressive Darren Hughes was black-carded for remonstrating with a linesman over a contentious sideline ball, a decision which left Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke irate.
"It was over beside us. First of all, I didn't think the ball was over the line. In the middle of a game, in the white heat of a championship match when things are at their height, do you expect every player on the field to use lovely language and excuse themselves for doing something?
"Maybe I'm talking in the heat of the moment, but I thought it was a crazy decision to punish someone like that for doing something like that there and make him miss the rest of the match.
"I don't know, I suppose some would say 'that's the rules', but I thought it was a very harsh decision."
Monaghan's situation became perilous after 49 minutes when Gary Kelly blasted to the net, after they failed to deal with a dropping free from the impressive Paul Broderick, and that put Carlow 1-5 to 0-7 in front.
However, that was as good as the dream got for Carlow. They only managed one point after that, a free from Broderick, and didn't score from the 54th minute on.
Monaghan never panicked, working the ball across the field before winning frees, or else the likes of subs Conor McCarthy and Ryan McAnespie picked off points.
They drew level with a free from goalkeeper Rory Beggan with 10 minutes left, edged in front through McAnespie and wrapped it up four minutes from the end when corner-back Fintan Kelly scored for the second week in a row.
"I don't know where we're at," admitted O'Rourke afterwards.
"What I do know is that we're through to the last 12 in the qualifiers, the All-Ireland championship, and that's a great place for us to be. I know we have a lot to improve on from today's performance."
Scorers - Monaghan: K Hughes 0-3, C McManus 0-3 (2f); F Kelly 1-0; C McCarthy 0-2 (1f), R Beggan 0-1 (1f), S Carey 0-1, R McAnespie 0-1. D Malone 0-1.
Carlow: P Broderick 0-5 (5f), G Kelly 1-0, B Murphy 0-2.
Monaghan: R Beggan 7; F Kelly 7, D Wylie 8, R Wylie 7, S Carey 7, C Walshe 6 (c), K O'Connell 6; K Hughes 9, D Hughes 7; N McAdam 6, D Malone 7, G Doogan 6; O Duffy 5, J McCarron 5, C McManus 7. Subs: D Mone 7 for D Hughes (35+3 black card), C McCarthy 7 for McCarron (45), R McAnespie 7 for Duffy (53), V Corey 6 for McAdam (58), D Ward 5 for Carey (70), K Duffy 5 for Doogan (70+5).
Carlow: R Molloy 7; C Lawlor 6, S Redmond 7, M Rennick 7; G Kelly 8, D St Ledger 7, D Moran 7; S Murphy 7, B Murphy 7; S Gannon 7, J Murphy 6, D Foley 6 (c); P Broderick 7, C Moran 6, E Ruth 6. Subs: S Clarke 6 for Kelly (62), K Nolan 6 for Moran (62).
Ref - Cormac Reilly (Meath).