Galway just edged their Allianz League divison one opener against Monaghan in Pearse Stadium in front of a crowd of almost 8,000 on Sunday. The final scoreline was 1-14 to 0-16 points on a contest that could have gone either way.
The supporters came to see Padraig Joyce at the helm for his first real competitive fixture of the year, hoping to see more attack minded football than the previous regime, and this encounter did not disappoint. And it was crucial Galway secured this early victory with much tougher challenges imminent, including away trips to Kerry on Saturday at 7pm in Tralee, followed by an away trip to Donegal.
Shane Walsh impressed once again, especially in the latter stages of the game when his leadership helped drive his side forward. He had also opened the scoring with a placed ball. This was followed by an expertly-taken Finnian O’Laoi score off his left boot.
Monaghan clawed it back to lead by 0-03 to 0-02, which included two Conor McManus scores from play. When Galway responded through Walsh and a left-footed effort by midfielder Céin Darcy, Monaghan levelled again.
The pivotal score of the first half, and ultimately the one which separated the two sides at the end, was a goal by young corner-forward Robert Finnerty.
In what was a glorious move, Shane Walsh secured a long ball inside. He could have pointed, but instead used the opportunity to switch to the inrushing Michael Boyle, who in turn found O’Laoi to pick out Finnerty. The Salthill-Knocknacarra player then rounded the keeper and tucked the ball into the net. It was a sprinkling of class from all four involved.
Once again Monaghan came back at the Tribesmen and rattled off two points, but Galway reasserted their dominance through two Walsh scores and a wonderful mark by Adrian Varley, who was a constant thorn in the Monaghan defence.
The sides went into the interval with the scores at 1-08 to 0-08. Immediately after the break Finnerty had a wonderful chance to put daylight between the sides, but his effort on goal blazed over the bar. Conor McManus notched another off his right before Monaghan were reduced temporarily to 14 men as Conor McCarthy received a black card.
Galway failed to fully capitalise on this numerical advantage as the sides scored two points apiece during this time, with Paul Conroy’s from the left wing standing out.
Once parity was restored, Monaghan pushed on and levelled the match at 1-11 to 0-14. The Galway subs rolled on and their energy was essential to getting Galway over the line.
Shane Walsh, Damien Comer and debutante Maitias Barret, all grabbed crucial scores to just keep Monaghan at bay. Despite a wonderful free from distance on the touchline from Conor McManus, Banty McEnaney’s Monaghan side could not find the all-important leveller.
Padraic Joyce will be aware there is room for improvement in his side’s performance, but will recognise the importance of getting early points on the board. The new manager has made three changes to team to play Kerryon Saturday at 7pm in Tralee. Corofin’s All-Ireland club final Man of the Match Ronan Steede starts at midfield, with Eamon Brannigan and Damien Comer both named in the half forward line, having been last Sunday.
It is set up to be another entertaining encounter in Tralee against the Kingdom this Saturday.
Galway v Kerry: Connor Gleeson, Johnny Duane, Sean Mulkerrin, Johnny Heaney,Gary O’Donnell, John Daly, Cillian McDaid, Ronan Steede, Cein D’Arcy, Eamon Brannigan, Damien Comer, Finnian Ó Laoi, Robert Finnerty, Shane Walsh, Michael Daly.