By Pádraic Ó Ciardha
Galway are through to their first Division 1 league final since 2006 after a strong second-half performance saw off 14-man Monaghan.
Towards the end of the first half, Monaghan were well in contention to inflict a first league defeat on the Tribesmen but the game turned on the sending off of Fintan Kelly just before the interval.
When Kelly was brought down by Gary O’Donnell in a central position, Monaghan looked set to move into a three-point lead. The free was overturned, however, when Kelly kicked out at O’Donnell and was shown a straight red card by referee Barry Cassidy.
Monaghan had been the better side up to that point, despite a fast start from Galway. Paul Conroy opening the scoring inside the first minute before a Barry McHugh free put the home side two points ahead by the sixth minute.
Monaghan got back level thanks to two frees from Conor McManus and Cathal McCarron but Galway again built up another two-point lead through scores from Damien Comer and McHugh.
Despite playing into the wind for the first 35 minutes, Monaghan were much the better side towards the end of the half, dominating possession as Malachy O’Rourke’s side hit five of the last six points of the half, including two superb efforts from Kieran Hughes.
The sending off changed the course of the game, however, as Galway again made a bright start to the second period, Damien Comer slotting over his second point of the afternoon. Shane Walsh then drew the sides level again before Barry McHugh edged Galway ahead for the first time in the second half.
It was all Galway at this point and three points on the bounce put them in control midway through the half before Conor McManus got Monaghan’s first score of the second period in the 51st minute.
Substitute Adrian Varley added his second point of the game soon to keep Galway in the ascendency and Kevin Walsh’s side only pushed on from there, Barry McHugh, Damien Comer (2), Paul Conroy and Seán Armstrong all adding points, with Kieran Hughes’ late goal proving a mere consolation.
Scorers for Galway: B McHugh 0-5 (5f), D Comer 0-3, A Varley 0-2, Paul Conroy 0-2, Johnny Heaney 0-2, Shane Walsh 0-1, E Brannigan 0-1, S Armstrong 0-1 (1f)
Scorers for Monaghan: K Hughes 1-3, C McManus 0-4 (3f), C McCarron 0-2 (1f), R Beggan 0-1 (1 ‘45)
Galway: R Lavelle; S Ó Ceallaigh, E Kerin; C Sweeney, G Bradshaw, G O’Donnell; P Conroy, C Duggan; J Heaney, S Walsh, E Brannigan; P Sweeney, D Comer, B McHugh.
Subs for Galway: S Armstrong for P Sweeney (8), P Cooke for C Duggan (47), A Varley for S Walsh (48), S Kelly for G O’Donnell (54), T Flynn for J Heaney (68), F Burke for B McHugh (69)
Monaghan: R Beggan; R Wylie, K Duffy, C Boyle; V Corey, P McGuirk, K O’Connell; K Hughes, N Kearns;R McAnespie, N McAdam, F Kelly; C McManus, C McCarron, M Bannigan
Subs for Monaghan: C McCarthy for C McManus (11-17, Blood), D Ward for M Brannigan (HT), D Wylie for P McGuirk (43), D Hughes for N McAdam (46), C McCarthy for J McCarron (49), O Duffy for V Corey (58)
Referee: Barry Cassidy