Kerry cloud has silver lining for relieved Farney
Sometimes you get what you deserve. When the final whistle sounded in a sun-kissed Fitzgerald Stadium, Monaghan stood helplessly, suspended briefly in their own place of purgatory.
Had they done enough? Had they survived? Had their hooks and their crooks kept them in the top flight?
For the previous 10 minutes, their fate had ebbed and flowed on events in Pearse Stadium where Derry's commanding early lead was being eaten into by a resurgent Galway.
The gap in Salthill closed to three around the same time as Darren Hughes belted over a thundering 47-metre free from the ground to reduce Monaghan's deficit to three. With Tyrone so adrift of Dublin, their fate already looked assured, so it was between two.
Then Kieran O'Leary surged and pointed for Kerry. Four points behind again. Derry themselves re-opened a four-point cushion and that's how it ended, both sides locked on four League points with Tyrone, both sides with a scoring aggregate deficit of 11 points.
It took time for the news to seep through after that. Monaghan's greater 'score for' aggregate had preserved them. The large travelling contingent on the stand, many clinging to radios, began to cheer when confirmation of the permutations were fully signed.
The players breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was against their instinct to celebrate a defeat, particularly as they had been so comprehensively beaten.
The Hull City manager Phil Brown did it with a song at the KC Stadium last season but Seamus McEnaney hadn't the mike, the tan or indeed the neck to commit to it on the Fitzgerald Stadium surface!
Still, they had picked a good time and better place to 'overnight' on the Sunday and McEnaney was nonetheless ebullient as news filtered through. It was a cause for celebration given how they have consistently punched above their weight."
"The day we bet Tyrone in Inniskeen, I told the interviewers that day that it didn't make any difference if it came down to the last game in Killarney for us to stay in Division One, by hook or by crook we were going to stay there," he mused.
"I think it's very important for the future of Monaghan football and our travelling support here. We had a lot of long journeys. We had Mayo, we had Galway, we had Dublin, we had Kerry. That was a lot of time on the road.
"The lads showed serious commitment but, never mind the last five months, what about the last 17 minutes with 14 men (Rory Woods was sent off for two yellow cards) and they stuck to their job and we got our just rewards. We beat Tyrone, we beat Derry and we're entitled to stay up."
They did indeed beat Tyrone and Derry, albeit at home, and that entitled them to some justice on a day when otherwise Kerry showed much of their old style and panache.
Glorious days in Killarney like this are few and far between but they are made for football and in that regard they didn't disappoint.
The scintillating form of Paul Galvin and Kieran Donaghy here will ensure a giddy anticipation of the championship to come that wasn't there a few months ago.
Galvin, back after his two-month suspension, hopped off the ground all day and left his mark as much for the vision of his passes as the accuracy of the kicks that helped him amass three first-half points. When his influence waned slightly, Donaghy perked up. He looked slim and sharp and he too kicked with sublime accuracy to match Galvin's tally.
But it was their hand in the Kerry goal on 51 minutes that really had the home support in the 6,314 crowd purring with appreciation.
Galvin set the move in motion with a pinpoint delivery to Barry John Keane whose cross-field punt was tailor-made for a trademark Donaghy catch.
The full-forward obliged, offloaded over the top to Bryan Sheehan who had the momentum and the proximity to close the deal on a 1-12 to 1-7 lead.
It was textbook stuff that every coach should seek an action replay of, not just those tasked with facing the Kingdom at some stage later this year.
With Seamus Scanlon and later Mike Quirke ruling the skies and pulling down marks (nine between them), it was a matter of how much Kerry would win by.
Throw in Tomas O Se's competitive return -- his second-half point rose the most audible cheer of the day -- and Kerry were close to full strength.
They lost Colm Cooper to an eye injury after only seven minutes, were denied a clear penalty when Sheehan was clearly tugged on 15 minutes and were unlucky to concede a goal just before half-time when a dubious penalty, taken by Conor McManus, was parried by Brendan Kealy but only into McManus' path for a simple rebound.
A 0-9 to 1-4 interval lead was precarious but Kerry always had too much in hand and had the measure of Monaghan's forwards once Tommy Freeman limped off injured and later Woods, his replacement, walked.
To their credit, Monaghan never let the game get away from them as it might have on such a day, Damien Freeman and Dermot McArdle adding steel to their defence for the second half.
Late on, Declan O'Sullivan picked up a straight red card for an apparent incident with Monaghan midfielder Dick Clerkin but neither side will dwell on it for long, if at all. For both, it was mission accomplished.
"I think this league in many ways has been better for us than last year's league because we have found out more about players," acknowledged Jack O'Connor afterwards.
"This has been a massively competitive league. There were one or two teams in it last year that weren't competitive. Every team this year certainly gave a great account of themselves."
Scorers -- Kerry: B Sheehan 1-4 (2f), K Donaghy, P Galvin 0-3 each, Darran O'Sullivan 0-2, C Cooper, D Bohan, T O Se, K O'Leary 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 1-3 (2f ), R Woods, D Hughes (1f), P Finlay (1f) 0-2 each, C Hanratty, D Clerkin, D Freeman all 0-1 each.
Kerry -- B Kealy; M O Se, T Griffin, T O'Sullivan; D Bohan, T O Se, K Young; S Scanlon, A Maher; Darran O'Sullivan, Declan O'Sullivan, P Galvin; C Cooper, K Donaghy, B Sheehan. Subs: B J Keane for Cooper (7 mins), M Quirke for Maher (47), A O'Connell for Bohan (55), B Guiney for T O'Sullivan (64), K O'Leary for Darran O'Sullivan (70).
Monaghan -- S Duffy; N McAdam, J P Mone, D Mone; D Hughes, V Corey, C Walshe; D Clerkin, P Finlay; S Gollogly, D Malone, K Hughes; Ciaran Hanratty, C McManus, T Freeman. Subs: R Woods for Freeman (7), M McElroy for Malone (27), D Freeman for McAdam (ht), D McArdle for K Hughes (ht), F Caulfield for Gollogly (56).
Ref -- M Condon (Waterford).