O'Rourke rues missing chance to topple champs
Dublin 1-14 Monaghan 0-16
Imagine what it would mean to Monaghan if manager Malachy O'Rourke could go into a transfer market and buy a free-scoring forward to augment the prowess of Conor McManus.
What a difference that could make to a team which has made huge strides and achieved notable success since 2013.
Reality, however, dictates that McManus, as he showed in a highly entertaining clash against Dublin on Saturday night, must continue his role as Monaghan's main scoring threat.
The Clontibret clubman's 12 points, three from play, earned him the man of the match award, but McManus would have preferred the win and the two league points on offer.
Malachy O'Rourke hailed the contribution of his captain, saying: "I wouldn't swap him for anyone.
"Conor obviously gets special attention in there, but he was on fire and he got 12 points. It's great to have him there. Hopefully we can keep him injury-free."
Dublin manager Jim Gavin was satisfied with the outcome, but left no doubt that he expects improvement over the coming weeks, starting with a beleaguered Cork at Croke Park on Saturday evening.
"To get two points is always pleasing. Performance-wise we wouldn't be particularly happy with that," the Sky Blues boss noted.
"I thought the boys showed good resolve, good character, good spirit to eke out a couple of scoring opportunities and to come away with the two points.
"But seven wides, four dropped short, you know, a lot of turnovers; that wouldn't be good enough for later on this season, but for the last weekend in February we'd be happy with the two points."
The result stung Monaghan who took the game to the Dubs and led by five points after the first quarter.
Psychologically and in terms of the League table, victory would have been hugely rewarding. Instead, the manager was left to rue the lost opportunity.
"I suppose we're disappointed, no point in saying anything different. We came down with the mindset of wanting to win the game. We felt that if we played our best, we had a good chance of doing that," said O'Rourke.
That they failed was due to Dublin's superior range of artillery in the form of forwards - and defenders too, I might add - who know how to score when given the opportunity.
Dean Rock led the way with seven points, six from frees as his overall contribution.
Philly McMahon took the M50 direct route through the Monaghan rearguard on a number of occasions.
He missed a couple of chances, but got two points, and on this night, every score mattered.
Resilience and hard-earned experience on the road since Pat Gilroy led them to that breakthrough All-Ireland win in 2011, is also embedded in the Dublin team's psyche. They went from 0-7 to 0-2 down after 17 minutes to leading by 0-10 to 0-9 at half-time.
Monaghan's double-sweeper system and work ethic restricted the Dubs from making clear-cut goal scoring chances, but Rory Beggan was finally beaten from the penalty spot in the 40th minute after Flynn was taken down as he tried to get to a breaking ball.
Dublin boss Gavin called on Bernard Brogan as a blood sub for Flynn after that incident, and later, when Flynn returned, Brogan was off the pitch for a couple of minutes before coming on as a sub for Tomás Brady with 15 minutes left for play.
The exchanges were end-to-end, and fast and furious from then to the final whistle. Paul Flynn brought the Dubs to 1-12 on 57 minutes but that man McManus went on a steady scoring spree. His accuracry brought Monaghan level at 0-15 to 1-12 by the 62nd minute and, four minutes later, edged them a point ahead.
The Dubs were in no mood to surrender, and, if anything, they raised their intensity. Cormac Costello equalised in the 68th minute and three minutes later, up popped Brogan (left) to curl over a superb winner.
Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-7 (6f); D Connolly 1-0 (pen); P McMahon, C Costello 0-2 each; E O' Conghaile, P Flynn, B Brogan 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 0-12 (9f); O Duffy, D Hughes, K Hughes, K Duffy 0-1 each.
Dublin - S Cluxton 6; P McMahon 7, M Fitzsimons 7, D Byrne 5; J McCarthy 6, C O'Sullivan 7, J Small 7; D Bastick 6, E O Conghaile 6; P Flynn 7, D Connolly 7, T Brady 7; D Rock 7, P Andrews 6, C Costello 7. Subs: S Carthy 6 for D Bastick (h-t); B Brogan for P Flynn (blood sub 41-52); J Cooper 6 for M Fitzsimons (52); B Brogan 6 for T Brady (55); P Ryan 5 for D Rock (58); B Fenton 6 for E O Conghaile (60); SB Carthy for D Connolly (66).
Monaghan - R Beggan 7; C Walshe 7, D Wylie 7, R Wylie 6; K Duffy 7, F Kelly 7, C O'Connell 7; N McAdam 7, D Hughes 7; S Carey 7, D Malone 7, T Kerr 7; O Duffy 6, K Hughes 6, C McManus 9.
Subs: D Mone 6 for K Hughes (30); C Boyle 6 for R Wylie (ht); B McAnespie 6 for O Duffy (47); C McCarthy 6 for D Malone (56); D McKenna for S Carey (66).
Ref - P Hughes (Armagh).
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