Monaghan super-subs deliver jolt to system for the Dubs
Monaghan 2-12 Dublin 0-17
Maybe they'll see it as a blessing in disguise, but Dublin will not be shattering their own unbeaten record any day soon. A pair of Monaghan super-subs have made sure of that.
With effectively the last kick of a slow-burning contest at Croke Park yesterday, Fintan Kelly nailed a brilliant right-footed winner from the right wing.
Kelly may be a defender by trade, but none of us should have been too surprised given his track record of scoring three goals during last year's qualifier series.
The four minutes of allotted injury-time were just up; there would be no time for the All-Ireland champions to launch an equalising riposte.
However, even though Kelly emerged as the last-gasp hero, this result was only rendered possible by the earlier interventions of fellow sub Jack McCarron, with a sublime lobbed goal and a superb follow-up point.
Thus ended Dublin's latest unbeaten sequence of 12 games - six in last year's All-Ireland campaign, another six in the league.
It meant they had travelled just a third of the required journey to emulate the 36-match record established last spring before Kerry called a halt in the league final.
Now Jim Gavin will hope that yesterday's rare reversal provides a sufficient jolt to the system ahead of next Sunday's decider against Galway.
And maybe therein lies the key to this eye-catching result. Dublin lost, but the earth underneath Croker didn't shake and the Sky Blue temple hasn't been split in two, just yet.
Colouring all post-mortems in the capital is the fact that Dublin were already ensconced in the final (cue several experimental inclusions, with mixed results) and Monaghan were safe.
Even Malachy O'Rourke wasn't quite sure how to celebrate his first HQ triumph over a Dublin team that has twice left him nursing a double-digit championship hangover.
"This time last year we ran Dublin very close (in Clones) and then conceded a couple of goals late on - they end up winning the game," the Monaghan boss recalled.
"We were hoping, if it came to a close finish again, we'd show a wee bit more composure and I'm glad we did that. But look, we won't get carried away. Dublin hadn't their full team, the points really weren't that important to anyone, so we'll keep it all in context."
Doubtless Gavin will do the same as he trawls through the match tape.
"We pride ourselves on the fundamentals of our game - the skills, kick-passing, hand-passing, and we did turn the ball over quite a lot today, which won't be good enough going forward," the Dublin manager warned.
"But you couldn't deny the great scores that Monaghan got in the second-half, and they've some fantastic forwards."
None were more mercurial than McCarron.
In last year's corresponding league clash, McCarron endured the weird sensation of scoring 1-9 against the Dubs only to finish on the losing side.
Yesterday the Currin clubman was held in reserve until the 56th minute, at which juncture Dublin were protecting a one-point lead.
Dean Rock's fifth converted free, and seventh point in all, doubled that just beyond the hour.
For all the world it looked as if a game labelled 'dead-rubber' in advance was going to script, ambling to a predictable conclusion.
But then, entering the home straight, it suddenly morphed into a full-blooded humdinger.
Karl O'Connell and David Byrne wandered far from their defensive berths to swap scores, keeping the gap at two.
Then Kieran Hughes, who exerted a telling second-half influence once he planted himself as target-man, won possession in the danger zone and it was worked through another pair of hands before McCarron, even as he fell to the ground, gathered the ball.
In one seamless movement, the substitute raised himself and executed an audacious chip over Evan Comerford (stepping in once more for Stephen Cluxton). His shot dinked just underneath the bar; the clock read 64 minutes and Monaghan led.
"I think there's no doubt he meant the goal," his manager surmised.
"He saw the opportunity. He scored a point as well. So that's what you want from a quality forward like Jack - you want him to make an impact."
The drama was only starting.
Hughes and his shadow, Philly McMahon, were yellow-carded soon after: game over for the Dub, who was already on a booking.
Then Brian Fenton, an oasis of calm authority throughout the encounter, took aim from 40 metres and levelled the tie.
Entering injury-time, McCarron took a pass from O'Connell on the loop to hit a superb left-footed score… only for Brian Howard to equalise in equally impressive fashion.
All that remained, as the clock ticked down, was for Kelly to deliver his coup de grace.
Much earlier, Dublin appeared to have established a solid platform when leading by 0-5 to 0-2 after 10 minutes, only for two veteran Monaghan backs to bomb forward and alter the script.
First, Dessie Mone pointed from the right wing. Then, in the 13th minute, Owen Duffy's hand pass exposed a yawning gap through the same corridor and Vinny Corey capitalised with a low finish that one of his forward colleagues would have envied.
It was all square between them at the break (0-8 to 1-5) and would remain in the melting pot until the very last play.
Scorers - Monaghan: V Corey, J McCarron 1-1 each, C McCarthy 0-3 (2f), C McManus 0-2 (1f), D Mone, K Hughes, R McAnespie, K O'Connell, F Kelly 0-1 each.
Dublin: D Rock 0-7 (5f), P McMahon, B Fenton, B Howard 0-2 each, J Small, N Scully, C Basquel, D Byrne 0-1 each
Monaghan - R Beggan 7; C Boyle 7, D Wylie 7, R Wylie 7; D Mone 6, V Corey 8, K O'Connell 7; D Hughes 7, N Kearns 6; P McKenna 5, O Duffy 6, R McAnespie 7; C McCarthy 7, K Hughes 8, C McManus 6. Subs: F Kelly 7 for McKenna (47), D Ward 5 for Duffy (47), C Walshe 6 for Mone (BC 56), J McCarron 8 for McCarthy (56), N McAdam 5 for Kearns (59), T Kerr for K Hughes (71)
Dublin - E Comerford 7; M Fitzsimons 8, P McMahon 7, D Byrne 7; D Daly 6, J Small 6, B Howard 7; J McCarthy 7, B Fenton 8; S Carthy (St Vincent's) 6, C Costello 6, N Scully 6; C McHugh 5, D Rock 7, K McManamon 5. Subs: C Basquel 6 for McManamon (44), MD Macauley 6 for Carthy (44), E Murchin 6 for Daly (54), P Small 5 for McHugh (54), E Ó Conghaile for Costello (64)
Ref - D Gough (Meath)
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