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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Farney army can dare to dream as the Tribe go awol

Monaghan 0-16 Galway 0-8

FARNEY ARMY ON THE MARCH: Monaghan’s Niall Kearns celebrates with supporters
FARNEY ARMY ON THE MARCH: Monaghan’s Niall Kearns celebrates with supporters

A tale of two semi-finalists. The people of Monaghan owned Salthill on Saturday evening - on the terraces, in the stand, and just as emphatically on the pitch itself.

Whereas Galway, in their own Pearse Stadium fiefdom, appeared lost or disinterested or both.

As the trudged off to the home dressing-room, it was hard to reconcile that they'll be back in an All-Ireland SFC semi-final this coming Saturday evening.

Beaten but unbowed? That remains to be answered, but this anaemic performance didn't come without a cost: next up the Dubs.

The only consolation for Galway is that qualification after two 'Super 8' rounds may have dulled the competitive instincts in a team that had lost once all season before this double-scores trouncing.

Kevin Walsh's men have spent all of 2018 getting up close and personal with the opposition. Here, only one tribe went to war.

"The hungrier team on the day," Walsh acknowledged of Monaghan's voracious attitude. "It's great to qualify after two games but sometimes that can come into it. You hope that doesn't happen.

"But look, the likes of Dublin have ten years in Division 1 and other teams, Monaghan, have six or seven years up there. We have continuously said that these are the matches that we need to become a serious team."

The Galway manager expanded: "We all know how much a wounded animal can fight for his life. Maybe we weren't as wounded as we would have liked to have been coming into this game.

"I have to give the boys great credit. We are in the last four. Our aim was to be in the top two of this group and we have achieved that. At the same time there are lessons to be learned today."

Still, a week is scant time to absorb those lessons before entering the Croke Park ring with the champions. With every week, sometimes without doing anything too spectacular themselves, Dublin's four-in-a-row credentials appear to grow ever stronger. Monaghan's tour de force means Kerry have now joined Mayo in the land of broken dreams, while Galway's no-show in Salthill raises multiple questions about their capacity to make a game of it.

Whereas Monaghan, having qualified for their first semi-final in 30 years, can now dare to dream of reaching only a second ever final, and their first since 1930.

No wonder that hundreds of their fans prematurely invaded the pitch as they waited, impatiently, for ref Conor Lane to call time on a game that had long since lost its competitive lustre.

Leapfrogged

Victory ensured that Monaghan leapfrogged Galway to the top of Group 1. It was a prize worth winning, for they will quietly fancy their chances in an all-Ulster semi-final against Donegal/Tyrone this Sunday. It also gave them an extra day to recover and refocus ... no bad thing given the emotional 'high' they need to come down from first.

"Maybe not so much for me," said 'keeper Rory Beggan, "but for the players out the field the extra day will help.

"People are on about avoiding Dublin, but we know that we have to beat the best to win it ... hopefully we're going to put in a performance like that, and maybe improve on a few little areas. It's hard to put into words that they're finally in a semi-final after a couple of years of hurt."

Thirty years of hurt for fans - and a half-decade of 'what ifs?' for this group of players who, under Malachy O'Rourke's shrewd command, have won two Ulster titles but also lost four All-Ireland quarter-finals.

"People were sort of saying 'Monaghan are a quarter-final team, that's their limit'. We wanted to put that right," Beggan explained."We haven't shown up in a couple of quarter-finals but, in the three quarter-finals we played in the Super 8s, we felt we played very well and deserved to be on five points, maybe six."

They had stars in every line on Saturday. Beggan nailed one of his now-routine 'monster' frees from 60 metres. Their full-back line never once looked like leaking the goal (or goals) that Galway needed. The tenacity and technique of their tackling was on a different level to Galway's, the agenda set by jet-heeled wing-back Karl O'Connell and half-forward terrier Dermot Malone.

Darren Hughes was the best midfielder on view; Conor McManus won his frees and nailed his frees and led the line as he always does ... but Ryan McAnespie proved that Monaghan are no one-man attack either, embellishing his usual high industry with four superb points from play.

This was no classic but Monaghan won't care; even the late double-yellow red cards for Drew Wylie and Colin Walshe come with no ramifications.

Galway were a disjointed mish-mash and they should be worried. Their three standout forwards (Shane Walsh, Ian Burke and Damien Comer) managed just 0-2 from play and a couple of Walsh frees between them, while Comer also fell prey to a late double-booking.

Ready for the Dubs? On this evidence, not remotely ...

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