Monaghan roared to a stunning 1-13 to 0-14 victory over holders Kerry in an absorbing contest at Inniskeen.
The only goal of the game at Grattan Park came from a controversial Conor McManus penalty in the first half. Although the holders will be angered by referee Cormac Reilly's decision to award that kick, they can have no complaints about the result itself as the best team won.
With both camps shorn of key men from UCD's Sigerson Cup winning team yesterday, Kerry carried a 100% record into the game but Monaghan seem to be their bogey team as this is the third time in four years that Malachy O'Rourke's men have turned them over. The winners led by seven points at one stage and, reduced to 14 men, had a survive a strong Kingdom rally before they got over the line.
Roared on by a vociferous home support, Monaghan produced a wonderful first-half display to deservedly lead by double scores at the turnaround, 1-9 to 0-6.
With six changes to the starting Monaghan team and three for the Kingdom, the respective XVs that began this match bore no resemblance to those in the match programme. Paudie McKenna had the Farney County ahead inside 17 seconds and a Jack McCarron free quickly made it 0-2 to no score before Dessie Ward's third-minute strike increased the Monaghan advantage.
Colin Walshe, Dessie Mone, Thomas Kerr, McKenna, Drew Wylie and McManus were those parachuted into the hosts' side from the start and those changes certainly didn't affect their rhythm as McCarron made it four points to nothing with an excellent point from play.
Sean O'Shea, Brendan O'Sullivan and Peter Crowley were the three late Kerry changes; Micheal Burns opened their account in the eighth minute and Paul Geaney reduced the arrears to two, only for Walshe to power forward to thump over a trademark Monaghan point. Barry John Keane fisted an easy Kerry point, resisting the temptation of going for goal in the eleventh minute, and a brace of McCarron frees left Malachy O'Rourke's men ahead by seven points to three after 13 minutes. Darren Hughes played a one-two with Mone and fisted the eighth Monaghan point on 15 minutes and the Kingdom replied through an O'Shea free.
The hosts were awarded a dubious penalty when midfielder Niall Kearns was dispossessed by visiting custodian Shane Murphy and McManus stepped up to emphatically beat Murphy from the spot in the 20th minute to extend the gap to seven points, 1-8 to 0-4.
O'Shea's second pointed free kept the Kingdom ticking over but McManus replied in kind at the other end seven minutes from the break, only for O'Shea to stroke over a '45' to close the first-half scoring.
Half-time substitute David Clifford (free) hit the first point of the second half five minutes in; McManus opened Monaghan's second-half tally from 30 metres on 45 minutes. O'Shea stroked over a soft Kerry free - awarded when Hughes refused to get out of an opponent's way - and Burns had the Munster champions just four behind. Another O'Shea free off the inside of the post meant that just the goal separated the teams going into the fourth quarter, 1-10 to 0-10.
Substitute Owen Duffy and Keane traded points when both had a glimpse of goal and Clifford powered through to take another Kerry point, the momentum all with the visitors as we went into the closing 15 minutes. An excellent Rory Beggan save kept the home net intact but the Kingdom won a free from the rebound and O'Shea stroked over his fifth converted free to leave the minimum between the sides with 59 minutes played.
Monaghan had to play the last eight minutes with 14 men after Barry Kerr was shown a straight red card. Quick-thinking from the hosts saw them double their lead on 68 minutes when Neil McAdam collected a short free from Duffy to fire over.
A Beggan free flew wide in the second of four added minutes and Clifford won and converted a free to make it a one-point game with about 60 seconds remaining… In a dramatic finale, McManus banged over a last-gasp free as the home side held on for their second successive league victory over Kerry.
Monaghan - R Beggan; C Walshe (0-1), C Boyle, B Kerr; D Mone, D Wylie, K O'Connell; D Hughes (0-1), N Kearns; P McKenna (0-1), D Malone, D Ward (0-1); T Kerr, J McCarron (0-4, 3f), C McManus (1-3, 1-0pen, 0-2f). Subs: F Kelly for D Mone, R McAnespie for D Malone, O Duffy (0-1) for P McKenna, N McAdam (0-1) for T Kerr, R Wylie for J McCarron, K Duffy for N Kearns.
Kerry - S Murphy; S Enright, J Foley, R Shanahan; P Murphy, A Barry, B O Beaglaoich; P Crowley, Brendan O'Sullivan; M Burns (0-2), S O'Shea (0-6, 5f, 1'45), S O'Brien; J Savage, P Geaney (0-1), BJ Keane (0-2). Subs: E O Conchuir for Brendan O'Sullivan, D Clifford (0-3, 2f) for J Savage, T O'Sullivan for A Barry, D Casey for P Crowley, K Spillane for BJ Keane, M Geaney for S O'Brien.
Referee - C Reilly.