Ruthless Kingdom maintain rhythm to plunge Monaghan into trouble
Kerry 1-17 Monaghan 1-9
Published 28/03/2016 | 02:30
Go back just a month to the 17th minute of their third league match when they were leading Dublin by five points and try to imagine the position Monaghan find themselves in now.
Already backed up by wins over Roscommon and Down, their form that night suggested survival should be a formality.
But things can quickly change in this highly competitive league throughout the month of March and Monaghan now find themselves needing to beat Donegal in Castleblayney next weekend to have a chance of having a third successive season in the top flight.
It's in their own hands but how secure are those hands now?
Kerry exposed them in Clones in much the same way that Dublin did in the final regulation game last year.
For the visitors it was a fourth successive league win for the first time on Eamonn Fitzmaurice's watch and, for once, they won't find themselves looking over their shoulders on the last day.
In fact, a semi-final place for the first time in four years is virtually assured. Fitzmaurice said as much afterwards on hearing results from elsewhere knowing that only a 20-point defeat to Cork in Tralee next week, on top of a Donegal win, could turn things against them.
That's not likely to happen, not to a team that has won three of those last four games on the road and played arguably their best football of the campaign in the second half here.
They were dominant in the third quarter, hitting Monaghan for six successive points in an 11-minute spell on the back of midfield supremacy through David Moran, Kieran Donaghy and Johnny Buckley.
Pushing up on Rory Beggan's kick-out after the restart, they forced Monaghan to go long and changed the game dynamic completely.
Paul Murphy, Colm Cooper, substitute Alan Fitzgerald and Donaghy all poured through for points to lock down this game in quite ruthless fashion.
Monaghan were bereft of answers and even the energy from Darren Hughes' 57th-minute palmed goal at close range after fine approach work from substitutes Owen Duffy and Ryan McAnespie was shortlived, Donaghy booting over another long range point in response before Paul Murphy snaffled a short kick-out, forcing a combination of Ryan Wylie and Beggan to take him down as he shot.
From the resultant penalty David Moran showed great execution and composure and any notion that they might live dangerously in the home straight was extinguished.
There was a real control to Kerry's play throughout, a lot of thought put into the angles they attacked the heavily fortified Monaghan cover.
They were patient and assured in possession, always waiting to get the right man on the ball at the right time.
Cooper looked back to some pre-2014 form and had a big playmaking role. Donaghy swung over those two points but had a hand in so many moves as he worked fruitfully down the left flank in the second half.
Kerry ran in Fitzgerald and Barry John Keane and they too picked off important scores at the end of patient and well-worked-out moves.
Kerry had lost the corresponding game in Tralee last year and were keen to make amends.
"We were probably smarting a bit from last year from the defeat in Tralee. We were very disappointed with ourselves," said Fitzmaurice afterwards.
"I was disappointed with the players and I was disappointed with my own performance that day. I felt we didn't bring our 'A' game and Monaghan beat us comprehensively.
"We knew the extent of the challenge but we knew as well that we were going well and if we kept playing that there was a big performance in us."
The sides had been level, 0-6 each, at half-time, neither side managing to put any daylight between them.
Kerry had a legitimate penalty claim in the 34th minute when Cooper almost had the jersey pulled over his head after gathering Paul Murphy's pass.
Monaghan led by 0-6 to 0-5 at that stage but were too cautious in their approach and the sight of Conor McManus playing football in his own half will have pleased Kerry, especially as they were facing the wind.
McManus had scored two impressive points but Monaghan too often sought Darren Hughes with the long ball at full-forward and, with Aidan O'Mahony planted as a sweeper in front of him, it just didn't work.
Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke admitted they had set up cautiously because of what had happened in Cork two weeks earlier.
"We felt we left ourselves very open against Cork and we just wanted to make sure that we set ourselves up defensively first of all.
"We didn't think the wind was going to be that much of a factor. We thought that as long as we kept ourselves in the game that we'd be there in the second half as well."
Karl O'Connell and Dessie Mone, who was sent off for a second yellow card late in the game, also kicked points from distance but overall Monaghan didn't show enough ambition and were punished for some very static play.
Kerry put a lot of pressure on in contact. Referee David Coldrick produced very few yellow cards despite penalising Darran O'Sullivan and Donaghy for at least three fouls each.
Playing Donaghy at midfield and Murphy at centre-forward has really worked for them in recent weeks.
"Kieran worked very hard during the off-season," acknowledged Fitzmaurice. "He was determined that if he was going to come back and have another cut at it he was going to be in the shape of his life. Similarly Paul Murphy - it has been a breath of fresh air and something new for himself."
Scorers - Kerry: C Cooper 0-6 (4f), D Moran 1-1 (1-0 pen), A Fitzgerald 0-4 (1f), BJ Keane, K Donaghy 0-2 each, D O'Sullivan, P Murphy 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 0-5 (3fs), D Hughes 1-0, D Mone, K O'Connell, R McAnespie, R Beggan (f) 0-1 each.
Kerry - B Kelly 7; S Enright 7, M Griffin 7, A O'Mahony 7; F Fitzgerald 6, P Crowley 7, M O Se 6; D Moran 7, K Donaghy 8; D Walsh 7, P Murphy 8, J Buckley 8; D O'Sullivan 7, C Cooper 8, S O'Brien 5. Subs: A Fitzgerald 8 for O'Brien (29), K Young 6 for Crowley (49), BJ Keane 7 for O'Sullivan (56), B O'Sullivan for Buckley (61), P Geaney for Cooper (64), A Walsh for Walsh (68).
Monaghan - R Beggan 6; R Wylie 7, D Wylie 7, C Walshe 6; V Corey 6, F Kelly 6, K O'Connell 7; N McAdam 5, K Hughes 6; D Mone 6, T Kerr 5, D Malone 5; S Carey 5, D Hughes 6, C McManus 7. Subs: O Duffy 6 for Carey (46), R McAnespie 7 for Kerr (46), D Clerkin for Malone (61).
Ref - D Coldrick (Meath)