There’s an undeniable feelgood factor about Galway football since Padráic Joyce took charge, but with tougher tasks on the horizon, there were enough holes in this display to ensure their supporters don’t lose the run of themselves.
Whether Galway are going to be able to push on and produce the sort of swashbuckling style that was a hallmark of Joyce’s own game remains to be seen, but what was undeniable at Pearse Stadium was that this was is an invaluable win for the Tribesmen.
They will be on the road to Kerry and Donegal for their next two games, so a scenario where they could be searching for a first win after three games has been avoided. Indeed, they will now embark on those trips with a spring in their step.
It is not quite a free shot in Tralee and Letterkenny, but it has eased the huge pressure heading to each of those bearpits.
“We are not short of character or fight and battle — and the lads are only about 60% fit at this stage — but they showed great heart and passion for the cause, and I’m really pleased with that,” said Joyce.
“It was very important to get the win with a couple of tough away matches coming up. I said it this morning when we met, that the whole thing of the day, no matter whether we played well or not, was to get the two points.”
They didn’t do it the easy way and while they opened up a five-points lead against the breeze early in the second half, they missed the chance to bury Monaghan just after the restart.
“We had a great goal chance with Rob Finnerty after half time, but he just hit it way too hard and it went over the bar,” added Joyce. “And then Shane Walsh missed a free from close range which you would have put your house on, but overall he was outstanding for us as a captain, he led us well and ran himself into the ground and took some serious hits off the ball.
“I’m happy with the two points, but we shouldn’t have come that tight to be just a point ahead, as we were by far the better team all day. It’s a start, it’s a base, it’s the end of January, nothing is won until later in the year but it’s great to get two points early in this tough league.”
Galway led by 1-8 to 0-8 at the break, having played with the breeze in the opening half.
Skipper Walsh and Monaghan’s Conor McManus landed some superb scores, with six players from each side hitting the target during a good opening half.
The key score came after 15 minutes when Walsh and Michael Boyle combined for Finnerty to shoot home the game’s only goal.
But Monaghan were given a glorious chance to cancel it four minutes from the break when Walsh was penalised for fouling Dessie Ward, but McManus’ shot to the left was brilliantly saved by Connor Gleeson.
Galway opened up a five-point lead eight minutes into the second half after Conor McCarthy was black-carded, but Monaghan rallied and struck for five points in a row to level the match with 10 minutes remaining via efforts from Kieran Hughes, McManus, Christopher McGuinness, Jack McCarron, and Aaron Mulligan.
Walsh and McManus traded frees, and then after Damien Comer fisted Galway in front, McGuinness had a shot blocked by full-back Sean Mulkerrin in a crowded goalmouth amid claims that it had gone over the line.
Galway extended their lead when Matthias Barrett pointed a goal chance and while McManus reduced the deficit with his sixth point, McEnaney’s men were unable to come up with an equaliser.
“We missed a couple of opportunities and according to my stats men there was a possible goal disallowed that was a definite goal,” said McEnaney.
“We’d love to have left with a point. I think we’re unlucky that we didn’t come out of it with something, but the one thing that we did come out of it with was fighting spirit, and that’s a very important thing for me to have in our dressing room, for me, the management team, and the players.”
S Walsh 0-6 (5f), R Finnerty 1-1, G O’Donnell 0-1, C D’Arcy 0-1, P Conroy 0-1, A Varley 0-1 (1 mark), M Barrett 0-1, F Ó Laoí 0-1, D Comer 0-1.
C McManus 0-6 (2f, 1 mark), K Hughes 0-2, J McCarron 0-2 (1f), R Beggan 0-1 (1 ’45), K Duffy 0-1, R McAnespie 0-1, C McCarthy 0-1, A Mulligan 0-1, C McGuinness 0-1.
X Gleeson; J Heaney, S Mulkerrin, J Duane; G O’Donnell, J Daly, C McDaid; P Conroy, C D’Arcy; M Boyle, F Ó Laoi, M Daly; R Finnerty, S Walsh, A Varley.
D Comer for Boyle (33), E Brannigan for Ó Laoi (49), M Ó Baireid for Conroy (60), L Costello for Varley (60), S Kelly for M Daly (67).
R Beggan; R Wylie, K Duffy, C Boyle; D Ward, K O’Connell, M Bannigan; N Kearns, D Hughes; R McAnespie, J McCarron, D Malone; C McCarthy, K Hughes, C McManus.
A Mulligan for Bannigan (46), C McGuinness for Malone (56), S Carey for McCarthy (59), A Woods for McCarron (70).
Maurice Deegan (Laois).