First-half goal spree gives Galway victory over struggling Monaghan

Farney county have it all to do to avoid the drop after fourth successive defeat

National Football League Division One: Monaghan 0-14 Galway 3-12

Even Houdini ran out of escape acts in the end. It’s not yet entirely beyond Monaghan, but they will certainly require something magical if their decade-long run in Division One football is to survive.

After this fourth successive defeat their prospects are decidedly slim, their fate now out of their own hands. For five out of the last nine years, Monaghan were also involved in a relegation battle going into the last round, each of which they somehow managed to survive, but with Mayo and Tyrone to come, that sort of pot luck might be running out.

After their opening goal-fest triumph over Dublin, putting three goals past the All-Ireland champions, Monaghan were the victim of that onslaught here, Galway firing home all three in the last 10 minutes of the first half, in each case after winning a breaking ball for possession.


Billed as a do-or-die game for both teams, the result lifts Galway out of the relegation zone into fifth, and even with Dublin and Kerry to come, they are at least in control of their own destiny.

Monaghan manager Vinny Corey admitted afterwards that all three goals were preventable – and he was bang on about that – and despite playing the better football for much of the second half they could never close that sort of concession. They also finished with 11 wides and hit three shots off the post.

Still, Corey wasn’t writing their survival prospects, also pointing to such positives as getting Conor McCarthy and Conor McManus back on the field of the play: there is, he said, also the fast-approaching matter of the Ulster championship.

“Look, we’ve two games left, there are four points up for grabs,” he said. “So we’ll take the break now, but we’ll try get more game time into the boys just coming back from injury, we are playing a wee bit of catch-up with a lot of our main players.

“We’ll take it one game at a time, we’re not worried too much about it, Division One is getting a harder and harder place to be without your full team, when you see the way teams are approaching it now. We’ll see what we’re like in two weeks’ time, but the key thing for us now is looking five weeks down the line here for the first round of the championship.”

After an uneventful opening quarter, the teams tied on 0-2 apiece, things slowly and then suddenly changed when Galway got on their goal spree.

The first, on 27 minutes, fell to Cathal Sweeney, who pounced on a breaking ball and rifled home from short range; the second, on 31 minutes, was deftly finished by Rory Cunningham, the Ballygar man making his first senior start, after Robert Finnerty’s free came off the upright.

The third, on 37 minutes, came out of the proverbial nowhere, Johnny Heaney’s sideline contested by Cein Darcy, before John Maher ran in to toe-boot the ball into the net.

In between, Monaghan did get three points back, including a second from Hamill, but also lost Andrew Woods to a black card (on 30 minutes) and went into the break six points behind.

For Galway manager Padraic Joyce those three goals turned his team’s mood as much as the scoreboard: “We looked lifeless at times and there was no real urgency in our game,” he said. “Funny turnovers, mis-soloing the ball a couple of times, hopping the ball not into our hands.

“Then we just put a long ball into the square, got a goal out of it, then two more, and to go in at half time six points up and not playing well was a huge bonus for us. It’s great for us to be on five points now, but I still think though we need another result to cement our place in Division One.”

Still without the likes of Matthew Tierney, Damien Comer and Shane Walsh, Cunningham’s performance in the left corner was highly encouraging, as he finished with 1-3, replacement Cillian O Curraion also finished with 0-5, four frees, after coming in for the injured Finnerty.

As the game tightened up in the second half, Conor McManus was called into the action on 50 minutes, Desie Ward and later Conor McCarthy then bringing Monaghan’s tally to 10. McManus added a free too, but all too little and too late.

“From the very first McKenna Cup match this year I think we’ve averaged three injuries per match,” said Corey. “It’s been hard to sustain, it didn’t go all our way today, but there were a lot of positives in that performance.”

Positives perhaps, only their division one survival now hanging by a thread.

MONAGHAN: D McDonnell; R Wylie, K Lavelle, T McPhillips; K O’Connell, K Duffy (capt), R O’Toole (0-1); M McCarville, D Hughes; D Ward (0-2), M Branigan (0-2, one free, one mark), M Hamill (0-2); A Woods, J McCarron (0-4, two frees, one mark), C McNulty. Subs: C McCarthy (0-2) for Woods (46 mins), Conor McManus (0-1, a free) for McNulty (50 mins), D Garland for O’Connell (54 mins), Jason Irwin for Bannigan (64 mins), K Loughran for Ward (66 mins).

GALWAY: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Fitzgerald, S Mulkerrin; D McHugh, J Daly (capt) (0-1) D O Flaherty; C Darcy, J Maher (0-1); J Heaney, S Kelly, C Sweeney (1-0); R Finnerty (0-2, both frees), N Daly, R Cunningham (1-3). Subs: J Glynn for Mulkerrin (27 mins), L O Conghaile for Finnerty (half-time, injured), C O Curraoin (0-5, four frees, one mark) for Darcy (47 mins) K Molloy for Heaney (50 mins), P Egan for Sweeney (66 mins)

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics