So near yet so far. That was the heart-breaking tale Seamus McEnaney's gallant Monaghan side were forced to endure in this pulsating All-Ireland minor football championship semi-final at Croke Park yesterday.
Rarely, indeed, has such drama been encapsulated in the closing minutes of a game at this level of late.
Entering the last quarter, Monaghan were taking a standing count as Kerry looked set to build on a solid 1-13 to 0-10 lead.
But Monaghan's latent reserves of stamina and resolve were to serve them well when the pressure was really on.
A glorious comeback, triggered by goals from Jason Irwin and Mark Mooney in the 54th and 56th minutes respectively, transformed the course of the contest.
Suddenly the Farney side were ahead at 2-11 to 1-13 but they were denied the euphoria of a fairy-tale ending. Kerry re-grouped, retained possession when Monaghan were inexplicably surrendering the ball and then clinched their place in yet another All-Ireland final with two late points from Paul Walsh and an other from substitute Jack Kennelly.
No wonder Monaghan boss McEnaney was devastated at the finish.
"I could not have asked the lads to give more," declared McEnaney, "They left everything out there. I am proud of them. "
Kerry led by 0-10 to 0-6 at half-time having dominated in the early stages when Dylan Geaney ran riot in their attack before they were reined in.
Even when Kerry streaked clear again Monaghan showed they had fire in their bellies, Sean Jones sparking their second crucial revival by bringing his points haul to four. But even though those goals from Irwin and Mooney galvanised the huge Monaghan support, Kerry held their nerve in injury-time.
Kerry: M Kelliher; C Flannery, O Fitzgerald, D Mangan 1-0; C Moriarty, D McCarthy 0-1, D Murphy; D Rahilly 0-1, D Lyne 0-1; P Walsh 0-4 (2f), P O'Shea 0-1, K Falvey 0-2; D Geaney 0-5 (2f), P D'Arcy, M Lenihan. Subs: J O'Connor for D'Arcy (half-time), J McCarthy for Lenihan (48), J Kennelly 0-1 for O'Connor (54), K O'Donoghue for Manger (58). Yellow cards: Lenihan (30), O'Shea (32)
Monaghan: R Farrelly; R Grimes, J Doogan, S Hanratty; C Flood, B Og O Dufaigh, M Meehan; J McGarrell, A Moore; A Mulligan 0-4 (1f), S Jones 0-4 (2f), K Gallagher; D Swinburne 0-1, L Power 0-1, J Irwin 1-1. Subs: M Mooney 1-0 for McGarrell (36), D Dempsey for Power (46), J Wilson for Gallagher (58). Yellow cards: Mooney (50), Moore (60), Grimes (65).
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).