It's no Kerry joke as O'Rourke's men net anguish in the end
Monaghan 1-17 Kerry 1-17
Never ever write off Kerry - that was the all-too-clear message that was flashed at a throbbing St Tiernach's Park, Clones yesterday.
This pulsating Super 8 Phase Two clash was ebbing to a glorious climax from a Monaghan perspective when the Kingdom somehow managed to conjure up a goal out of nothing that saw them earn a division of the spoils from a contest that had appeared to be out of their grasp.
For Monaghan, this was a decided setback. Not so long ago earning stalemate with the traditional aristocrats of football might have been deemed an admirable feat but Malachy O'Rourke's side have raised the bar for themselves to such an extent that this was a point lost rather than a point gained.
They had fended off Kerry's robust challenge for the best part of the match, their collective work-rate allied to a ration of individual flair that Eamon Fitzmaurice's side found difficulty in coping with.
But Kerry's staying power, courage and pride were never in question and when David Clifford tucked away Kieran Donaghy's knockdown in the 74th minute new life was promptly breathed into the team's quest for a semi-final place.
Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke was disappointed but philosophical at the finish.
"We wanted to get into the Super 8s to test ourselves against the very best teams and Kerry are certainly one of those. Matches like this can be decided by fine margins and that's the way it turned out," insists O'Rourke.
Monaghan could hardly have anticipated a more lucrative start. With scarcely two minutes gone the ball was nestling in the back of the Kingdom net, having been clinically despatched there by Conor McManus who was to score a stunning 1-9 in all in a man of thee match performance.
His goal was merely the aperitif to an appetising first-half offering during which seven points flowed from the educated right book of Kerry's Sean O'Shea.
Never more than three points separated the sides until the 32nd minute when O'Shea potted his sixth free of the first-half to leave Monaghan clinging to a tenuous 1-8 to 0-9 lead.
But two points from long-range frees by goalkeeper Rory Beggan and a further point from McManus saw Monaghan enjoy a 1-11 to 0-10 half-time lead.
In a riveting second-half, O'Shea, Tom O'Sullivan and David Moran were on target to trim Monaghan's lead to just one point before a brace from McManus and a fourth score from a long-range free by Beggan put Monaghan in the box seat again.
But Clifford's act of grand larceny right at the death robbed Monaghan of what would have been a landmark victory - and has rendered their forthcoming task against Galway a massively important assignment as they renew their bid to reach the promised land of last four.
Monaghan: R Beggan 0-4 (4f); K Duffy, D Wylie, R Wylie; D Mone, V Corey, K O'Connell 0-1; N Kearns 0-1, D Hughes 0-1; R McAnespie, S Carey 0-1, D Malone; C McCarthy, F Kelly, C McManus 1-9 (5f). Subs: K Hughes for McCarthy (43), O Duffy for Carey (62), D Mone for Kelly (68). Yellow cards: R Wylie (35), D Wylie (39)
Kerry: B Kelly; R Shanahan, M Griffin, T O'Sullivan 0-2; P Murphy, P Crowley, G White; D Moran 0-1, J Barry; K McCarthy, S O'Shea 0-8 (6f, 1'45'), S O'Brien 0-1 (1f); D Clifford 1-4, P Geaney, K Donaghy. Subs: M Burns for McCarthy (half-time), J O'Donoghue for Geaney (50), B O Beaglaoich Griffin (53), D O'Sullivan for O'Shea (55), A Maher 0-1 for Barry (65), P Geaney for T O'Sullivan (70). Yellow cards: Clifford (35), Donaghy (38), O'Shea (48).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)