Galway football continues to build ahead of championship season

Galway's Cathal Sweeney is held by Monaghan's Stephen O'Hanlon in action from the Allianz National Football League game at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy.

Galway's Cathal Sweeney is held by Monaghan's Stephen O'Hanlon in action from the Allianz National Football League game at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy.

A strong second-half showing against Monaghan has put Galway within reach of a league final in this year's ultra-competitive NFL division one.

Galway’s six-point win over the visitors ensured they joined Roscommon in second place with two games to play. Amazingly, after five rounds, only Mayo looks safe from relegation to division two, standing alone at the top with eight points. Second place has six points, and Donegal at the bottom have just three, giving them some hope with Tyrone, Kerry and Monaghan just one point ahead of them.

Despite trailing 0-8 to 0-7 and a man down after Peter Cooke’s dismissal, Galway came out for the second half and outscored Vinny Corey’s side 1-6 to 0-2 to win comfortably in the end.

With Galway two ahead in the 62nd minute, the impressive Cathal Sweeney secured breaking ball just outside the Monaghan box and squared the ball for Johnny Heaney to strike his sixth league goal for Galway and give his side a five-point cushion.

Galway, this time, saw out their lead, and even though Monaghan produced some shots, they were under huge pressure and failed to score in the final 10 minutes, failing to score at all after the 55th minute. Monaghan’s second-half shooting was disappointing, but Galway’s defence held tough as they failed to score from play at all in the second half, with both points coming from Rory Beggan frees.

This year Galway have made a habit of struggling to finish out games, yet Padraic Joyce’s side has not been conceding much in any game. The most Galway have conceded in the league to date was 1-11 in their draw with Mayo. After five games Galway have let in just 2-42, an average of just under 10 points a game. Galway probably should have beaten Mayo and Donegal, and they did finish the Roscommon game poorly against a team missing several star players. Clearly not playing their best football, they have adapted and managed quite well in their first year back to division one.

Shane Walsh made a welcome return off the bench for the Tribesmen against the Farney county. Although he missed the two opportunities that fell his way, his presence alone caused Monaghan to leave space in areas that were not there in the first half.

Rob Finnerty is continuing his return to full fitness, and Damien Comer is still hoping to be back in action before the end of the league campaign.

Moycullen’s Eoghan Kelly continues to impress in his debut campaign, and lined out beside his two brothers again for Galway. With Neil Mulcahy impressing in his two games, allied with Johnny McGrath and Daniel O’Flaherty getting invaluable experience, Joyce is starting to build his squad depth together that was so badly needed at the beginning of the season.

Two huge games await the Tribesmen with a renewal of 2022’s game of the season against Armagh on March 18, followed by a replay of last year’s All-Ireland final. A win in either of these games would guarantee Galway’s position in division one for 2024, and a league final is not yet out of reach. With Walsh’s return and Comer’s not too far away, Galway are beginning to warm up nicely for championship football which is just around the corner.

 

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