Galway wrapped up a spot in the Allianz Football League Division 1 final and their perfect start continued as Kevin Walsh’s side outperformed 14-man Monaghan at Pearse Stadium.
The sending off of Fintan Kelly just before half-time derailed Monaghan’s hopes of victory, as they went from a two-point lead to a three-point deficit in the first 15 minutes of the second-half.
Three points from Damien Comer and two each from Paul Conroy and substitute Adrian Varley kept Galway in control, while the Tribesmen welcome Dublin to Salthill next weekend ahead of a likely final between the sides.
With both teams electing to swarm back into defence when they lost possession, much of the first-half was taken up with each attack showing patience on the ball as they switched play from side to side in an attempt to spot a gap.
Paul Conroy was the first to break through with a point after 32 seconds, but they were forced to work even harder for their second, which came after six minutes, when Barry McHugh converted a free.
It was no surprise to see Conor McManus starting in the Monaghan full-forward line despite not being named to start, and the danger man was one of five changes to the Monaghan line up ahead of throw in.
He kicked his side’s first point from a ninth-minute free, but Eoghan Kerin largely silenced his influence, and he kicked his only point from play, while Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh was picking him up.
Jack McCarron kicked Monaghan’s second point – a free from the right – to level matters, but a second McHugh free and a trademark Damien Comer point on the run soon restored Galway’s advantage.
While they always had plenty of numbers back in defence, Galway displayed some excellent tackling technique too, with Cathal Sweeney to the fore in this facet of the game.
While being the team in charge of the first quarter, Galway only held a 0-05 to 0-03 lead by the 23rd minute – they kicked six wides with the wind advantage – and they were well punished at the other end as Monaghan kicked four points in a row, including two excellent efforts from Kieran Hughes to lead by two.
Just before half-time Monaghan were awarded a free and could have stretched that 0-07 to 0-05 advantage, but after he was fouled Fintan Kelly kicked out at Gary O’Donnell on the ground, which resulted in the free being reversed, and the Monaghan forward being shown a straight red card.
Galway’s response was impressive after the break with another Comer point straight from the throw in, and he almost hit the game’s first goal two minutes later when his shot for a point came back off the crossbar. But Galway soon took the lead when Shane Walsh and McHugh kicked scores, while McHugh’s fourth free pushed Galway 0-09 to 0-07 ahead in the 48th minute.
Sean Armstrong was one of Galway’s most incisive forwards after his first-half introduction, but a brilliant score from his fellow replacement, Adrian Varley, stretched Galway’s lead out to four, before McManus tapped over a free at the other end to end 22 scoreless minutes for Monaghan.
The one less man in the Monaghan defence clearly freed up some additional space in the second-half and after a McHugh free, a driving run from Declan Kyne resulted in the ball coming off the crossbar, but Johnny Heaney scored a point from the rebound and Galway ran out easy winners despite a late goal from the excellent Kieran Hughes.
Galway: Ruairi Lavelle; Declan Kyne, Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh, Eoghan Kerin; Gary O’Donnell, Gareth Bradshaw, Cathal Sweeney; Paul Conroy (0-02), Ciarán Duggan; Johnny Heaney (0-02), Shane Walsh (0-01), Eamonn Brannigan (0-01); Patrick Sweeney, Damien Comer (0-03), Barry McHugh (0-05, 0-05 frees).
Subs: Seán Armstrong (0-01, 0-01 free) for Patrick Sweeney (9), Peter Cooke for Duggan (48), Adrian Varley (0-02) for Walsh (49), Seán Kelly for O’Donnell (55), Thomas Flynn for Heaney (69), Frankie Burke for McHugh (70).
Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-01, 0-01 ’45); Ryan Wylie, Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle; Karl O’Connell, Paraic McGuirk, Vinny Corey; Kieran Hughes (1-03), Niall Kearns; Ryan McAnespie, Neil McAdam, Fintan Kelly; Conor McManus (0-04, 0-03 frees), Jack McCarron (0-02, 0-01 free), Michéal Bannigan.
Subs: Conor McCarthy for McManus (12-18, blood) & for McCarron (50), Dessie Ward for Bannigan (36), D Wylie for McGuirk (44), Darren Hughes for McAdam (46), Owen Duffy for Corey (59).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).