DUBLIN weren't expecting any favours from Monaghan's stony grey soil. They were right.
The Farney Army edged it by a point -- 2-8 to 2-7. It was a kind of homecoming for the Dublin boss, Peter Clarke. Peter was in the cockpit as Monaghan reached last year's All-Ireland final. They'll be in the mix again this summer.
It was Dublin's second loss in Division 1 of the Bord Gáis Energy NFL, but Clarke and his cohorts won't be too worried about that.
Cork beat them by a goal at Páirc Uí Mhurchú. It's challenges the like of which Cork and Monaghan delivered that Dublin desire.
That's why the Dublin management place such a big emphasis on being in Division 1. And now a league semi-final beckons on April 22.
Before that, on April 1, Dublin host Laois at Ballyboden St Enda's. It's their last group fixture. The top four proceed to the semi-finals. It will be first versus fourth and second against third.
Cork currently top the poll with six wins (18 points). Monaghan are second with five wins (15 points) and then it's the Dubs with four victories in the satchel (12 points).
The last spot will be between Laois and Meath. Laois stand on nine points, two points ahead of the Royals.
Laois have that demanding assignment in Dublin, while Meath travel to Donegal, who have lost five games and whose scoring difference is minus 63.
If Meath beat Donegal and Laois lose to Dublin, Meath will secure their semi-final ticket. But Dublin will continue to keep their eye on their own ball.
The league journey has been a fruitful one. They have achieved two things -- advanced to the business end and have given players ample game-time.
On Sunday, Dublin again made good use of the bench. The unlimited substitution rule has been a blessing to the Blues.
"The players are getting to know each other better. Things are beginning to fall into place," announces selector, Pat Ring.
In Aughnamullen, Dublin had plenty of possession and chances. The ball didn't always obey orders.
Dublin were 1-6 to 1-2 ahead at the break, the goal coming from Orlaith Egan. Monaghan showed resilience.
Denise Masterson was humming in the engine room, but her midfield partner, Sinead Goldrick, had to retire injured.
Gemma Fay delivered a goal direct from the captain's table, but the hosts never lost their hunger. They have smashing footballers in Ciara McAnespie, Ellen McCarron, Niamh Kindlon and Sharon Courtney.
DUBLIN: C O'Connor; S O'Mahony, S Treacy, G O'Malley; G Fay (1-0), S McGrath, F Hudson (0-1); S Goldrick (0-3), D Masterson; A Clarke, N McEvoy, O Leonard (0-1); O Egan (1-1), N Hyland, S Aherne.
Subs used: A McGuinness (0-1), S Woods, A Ring, A McKenna, N Owens, C Murphy.