David Clifford saves Kerry’s Championship hopes with injury time goal against Monaghan

Monaghan 1-17 Kerry 1-17

David Clifford of Kerry celebrates after scoring his late goal
David Clifford of Kerry celebrates after scoring his late goal
Seán O’Shea, left, and David Clifford of Kerry taunt Drew Wylie of Monaghan

Kerry kept alive their All-Ireland ambitions and put a serious dent in Monaghan’s when 19-year-old David Clifford grabbed a goal in the fourth minute of injury time to snatch a fortunate draw after a pulsating clash in Clones.

Rarely has a draw ever felt more like a defeat but the body language of the Monaghan players and fans told its own story at the final whistle. They may never have a better chance of securing a championship win over Kerry.

From the moment Man of the Match Ciaran McManus goaled in the second minute they were on top. But a fatal flaw of not pressing home their advantage when they were on top came back to haunt them with Kerry scoring 1-1 without reply at the death.

They are of course still in contention for a place in the semi-final and a draw against Galway in Salthill on Saturday week will be enough to see them into the last four regardless of the result of Kerry’s home game against Kildare.

But really this was a golden chance blown to reach the last four for the first time since 1988 and knock Kerry out of the series.

Thirty-five-year-old Kieran Donaghy started his first game for Kerry since last year’s All-Ireland semi-final replay – he was sent off in the dying seconds of the contest.

Overall, Eamonn Fitzmaurice dropped a third of the side that started against Galway. Having already indicated that he was replacing his entire full-back line, he kept the really eye-catching changes under wraps until an hour before throw-in.

Donaghy replaced former Footballer of the Year James O’Donoghue while goalkeeper and team captain Shane Murphy lost out to Brian Kelly. In the absence of Murphy another rookie Gavin White took over as team captain for the day.

It was baking hot when the contest got under way. While Donaghy lined up at midfield for the throw-in he quickly moved to forward to form a two-man full forward alongside David Clifford.

But all the action was at the other end of the field as the new-look Kerry defence was roasted by a rampant Monaghan in the first 15 minutes. In his first play Mark Griffin slipped when faced with Conor McManus in a tussle for a diagonal ball from Kieran Duffy; the corner-forward couldn’t believe his luck but held his composure and beat Brian Kelly.

Monaghan’s policy of isolating McManus up front on Griffin was paying rich dividends and he quickly added a point and Kerry were in trouble with their re-starts as the home side pressurised them and Kelly had little option but to go long.

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But Monaghan failed utterly to press home their advantage as they kicked a succession of wides. But Sean O’Shea’s accuracy from placed ball kept Kerry in contention but their finishing from play was suspect as well and by half time Kerry had kicked six wides compared to five for Monaghan.

But where Monaghan really prospered was with their re-starts with some of Beggan’s restarts being exceptional – with all but two of them finding a colleague whereas six of Kerry’s went astray. But this superiority wasn’t reflected in the scoreboard.

Even though Kerry didn’t score from play until the 13th minute they kept in touch and coming up to half time it was a two-point game. Monaghan managed to put on a spurt thanks primarily to two brilliantly converted long range frees from Beggan and a brilliant individual effort from McManus.

But Clifford – who together with his marker Kieran Duffy was booked followed an off the ball incident – snaffled a crucial point for Kerry with the last kick of the first half to leave Kerry trailing by four at the break (1-11; 0-10)

Kerry began the second half in much more business like fashion kicking three points in the first ten minutes of the half as Monaghan looked vulnerable for the first time in the contest. But inevitably it was McManus who lifted the siege with a 46th-minute point. From there to the finish Monaghan essentially controlled the game but they failed to make it count.

Kerry made a couple of strange substitutes withdrawing Paul Geaney and Sean O’Shea and when Karl O’Connell hit a point on the hour mark to put them them five clear they looked secure.

But instead of going for the jugular Monaghan retreated and tried to play keep ball but they still looked safe when McManus brought his personal tally to 1-10 with a converted free in the 66th minute left four between the sides. Rory Beggan missed a chance to make it a five-point game when he narrowly missed a long-range free as the Kerry fans began heading for the exit.

But an Anthony Maher point left a goal between the sides and in the fourth minute of the five allocated minutes of injury time Monaghan were caught for a classic sucker punch goal for the second time in this year’s championship.

Substitute James O’Donoghue drove a diagonal ball into the Monaghan full back line; Donaghy got a hand to it it broke loose and David Clifford picked it up and from the tightest of angles beat Rory Beggan to level the tie for the first time.

Monaghan still had a chance to win it and created an overlap on the left with Dessie Mone and Darren Hughes frees but they were in two minds as to who would take the shot and eventually the chance was lost and an enthralling game ended with Kerry on the attack.

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-3, 3f); K Duffy, D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walsh; V Corey, K O’Connell (0-1); N Kearns (0-2), D Hughes; R McAnespie, S Carey (0-1), D Malone; C McCarthy, F Kelly, C McManus (1-10, 5f) Subs: K Hughes for McCarthy 42m; O Duffy for Carey 62m; D Mone for Kelly 67m

Kerry: S Murphy; R Shanahan, M Griffin, T O’Sullivan (0-2); P Murphy (0-1), 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 (1-3), K Donaghy Subs: M Burns for McCarthy ht; J O’Donoghue for Geaney 50m; B O’Beaglaoich for Griffin 51m; D O’Sullivan for O’Shea 55m, A Maher (0-1) for Barry 64m; P Geaney for O’Sullivan 70 + 1.

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)

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