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'We’ve been hit twice with sucker punches near the end, so hopefully we’ve used them up today'

Another late goal rocked the Monaghan footballers at the finish yesterday in Clones.

Malachy O'Rourke gathers his players after yesterday's draw in Clones.
Malachy O'Rourke gathers his players after yesterday's draw in Clones.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IT WAS NOT the first time this summer that Monaghan were left deflated at the final whistle.

The concession of a goal in the closing stages that snatches victory from your grasp tends to leave that impression.

It happened in early June in Omagh, Eoin Donnelly popping up late on with the goal that smashed Monaghan’s Ulster dreams as Fermanagh pipped them by a point.

It happened again yesterday in Clones with David Clifford somehow finding the space to shoot to the back of the net for Kerry and leave Monaghan reeling once more. They didn’t suffer defeat on this occasion but a draw felt like a hollow outcome after the manner in which they had controlled this match.

“We’ve been hit twice with sucker punches near the end, so hopefully we’ve used them up today,” reflected a rueful Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke afterwards.

“It was very disappointing at the end. I thought we controlled the game, I thought we played really good football, we defended for our lives and we thought we had it.

“When you’ve somebody like Donaghy on the edge of the square, he’s always going to be a threat, it maybe broke off him, I’m not too sure.

“Kerry had played that ball in a lot during the day and we coped with it – it was just one of those things. It just bounced and one of their boys got on it and stuck it away well.”

Malachy O'Rourke and Eamonn Fitzmaurice Monaghan's manager Malachy O'Rourke and Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was tough to criticise Monaghan’s display as they set the pace on the scoreboard from early in this game. After Conor McManus bagged that early goal, they never trailed and were only pegged back to parity in the 73rd minute.

But after dominating the exchanges, they could not round off the afternoon with a victory.

“Yeah that was the most disappointing thing,” agreed O’Rourke.

“I felt we were in charge in several areas around the field and we played some quality football. I thought the boys put in a serious shift there. Their work-rate was really, really good there.

“We could have been a wee bit more clinical and when you look at the stats of the match, even though we would be happy with our performance and played really well, we were probably not half as clinical as we needed to be.”

When the disappointment eases, the realisation will hit Monaghan that they can still shape the rest of their season. A positive result in Salthill on Saturday week will propel them into an All-Ireland semi-final.

Conor Mc Manus signs Patrick Treanor's cast Monaghan's Conor McManus signs 8-year-old Patrick Treanor's cast after yesterday's game. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It’s bitterly disappointing, obviously, but it was always going to be a three-game series, that’s the way we approached it.

“We’ve got two games over us, we’re sitting on three points, so we just have to draw a line under this one as soon as we can and re-focus on the next game against Galway.

“I’m immensely proud of the boys, everybody involved in the whole panel. The day we got beat by Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship we would have gladly taken this, to be in this position. We just have to take the positive out of it, learn as much as we can from it, and get ourselves ready for two weeks’ time.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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