Monaghan manager O'Rourke delighted to pass Kildare test
By Michael Devlin
It was a real battle over the course of the 70 minutes, but Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke was delighted to come through their All-Ireland Quarter-Final Group Stage opener with Kildare on the right side of the scoreline.
There was never much between the teams in a physical encounter on a wet afternoon at Croke Park, where slippery conditions caused problems for both sides.
An early Daniel Flynn goal gave the Lilleywhites the initiative, but Monaghan steadied the ship thereafter and went down the tunnel at halftime two in front.
Kildare got level in the second half but in the end the Farneymen were able find a way to edge in front and see out a two-point win for maximum points in their first assignment in Group 1.
“We’re delighted to get through it. It was a very difficult day for playing football," said O'Rourke. "After conceding the early goal I thought we responded really well and played some good football in the first half. There’s things there that we’d like to tidy up.
“Second half, again in possession we coughed up a bit of ball, maybe weren’t clinical enough, Kildare got back level at one stage. But the boys again, as we’ve come to expect, showed great character, got a couple of points to keep us ahead and finished out the goal, so delighted to get through it.
“When we were playing and creating the chances, we probably weren’t clinical enough with them. It was a difficult day, underfoot conditions were difficult. Even when fellas had possession, it’s so different from the last couple of weeks we’ve played, it was really rock hard, the ball was dry.
“Today, any contact at all it was very easy for the ball to slip out of your hands so we have to take that into account as well.
“We knew Kildare were going really well, we knew we had to put in a really good team performance to beat them. There’s plenty of areas of improvement, but we are pleased we did that.”
Just like in the Ulster semi-final against Fermanagh, Monaghan found themselves in the same perilous position of defending a two point lead going into the final moments.
A dramatic sucker-punch goal from Eoin Donnelly dumped them out of the Anglo-Celt Cup that day, but O’Rourke was relieved that his side were well equipped to prevent the same scenario playing out again this afternoon.
“You always think that but we were hoping that if we got the tackles in out the field that it wouldn’t lead to that. Until the final whistle goes, you’re always afraid something like that will happen, but the boys held out well and I thought we deserved our victory.”