Monaghan United sailed into the Airtricity Premier Division tonight at Terryland Park, comfortably seeing off the meek challenge of Galway United in the relegation play-off thanks to a first half brace from Declan O’Brien.
The Mons had some traumatic memories to overcome from last year’s cruel defeat at the hands of Bray Wanderers at this stage last year, but this was as far removed from that dramatic encounter as could possibly be imagined, as Roddy Collins’ men stamped their authority on the contest from the off.
Allied to Galway’s defensive frailties and their need to leave said fragile defence exposed as they chased an early goal, the conditions were perfect for Monaghan to put the contest to bed before the home crowd had a chance to exercise their lungs.
It looked like they would do this as attacks threatened the United goal with relative ease in the opening stages and Galway looked decidedly jittery. But a number of corners came to nothing and Galway began to come out of their shell, were competitive for a time, but couldn’t take the one glorious chance of the night that came their way.
It fell to Ronan Cauldwell, but the winger snatched at a shot from close range which flew inches over the bar. Within seconds the bell had tolled for the home side as Monaghan surged forward and Declan O’Brien was presented with the easiest of chances, put clear by John Reilly, and the veteran striker did the needful with an assured finish from the edge of the area.
Seven minutes later the make up of the Premier Division for 2012 was complete, as O’Brien and Reilly again combined, with O’Brien slotting in from six yards a precise cross form the right. Cauldwell’s missed chance was becoming more relevant by the second, but in truth it is hard to see how United would have kept the visitors at bay.
Monaghan cruised to the interval break with only a tame Bobby Ryan effort coming remotely close to threatening Sava. An early United goal may have stoked the crowd’s appetite, but within six minutes of the restart the Brennan brothers had combined to add to the Tribesmen’s woes.
Turning inside off the right flank, Sean clipped the ball across field to Ryan who advanced with menace and dinked the ball over Conor Winn, a goal scored before President–elect Michael D. Higgins had returned to his seat after a half time cuppa.
Higgins may have made a spectacular recovery to claim the seat in the Aras, but his beloved Galway club, of which he is honorary President, did not have the help of a Martin McGuinness typesaviour to cut their opponents chances into shreds. Monaghan had no weaknesses, or at least none that Galway were able to expose.
A flurrry of bookings and substitutions broke up the second half into a scattered affair, before the last 20 minutes conjured up some more goalmouth action as Monaghan clattered the post twice and Darragh Duggan forced a tremendous reflex save from Sava.
Alan Murphy registered a consolation for Galway with eight minutes to play and even the goalscorer knew it was inappropriate to celebrate it. A club that has an uncertain future ahead of it was heading towards the exit gate of the Premier Division, presumably to the heartfelt applause of those who thought they should never have got their place back in 2007.
For Monaghan, the joys of life in the Premier Division awaits, and if Collins can add a few to his squad and is happy to steer the ship for a while longer, then their adventure will be a fruitful one. While Galway are no barometer as to how they will be able to cope in 2012, taking their year into account then they will be a positive addition to the highest echelon.
Galway United: Conor Winn; Paul Sinnott, Laurence Gaughan, Yob Son, Stephen Walsh; Mikey Gilmore, Gary Kelly, Eric Browne (Darragh Duggan 56), Ronan Caldwell (Sean Kelly 56); Bobby Ryan, Alan Murphy.
Subs Not Used: Eduardo Dusi, Jin Gu Kim, Rory Gartlan, Willie Enubele, Oscar Sibanda.
Bookings: S Walsh (8), M Gilmore (38), Yob Son (66), A Murphy (70), L Gaughan (75), G Kelly (75).
Monaghan United: Gabriel Sava; Paul Whelan, Aidan Collins (Philip Byrne 56), Alan Byrne, Shane Grimes; John Reilly, Ryan Brennan (Willo McDonagh 56), Keith Quinn, Jordan Keegan (David Byrne 56); Declan O’Brien, Sean Brennan.
Subs Not Used: Mark Grace, Jason Marks, Michael Isichei.
Bookings: J Keegan (31), S Brennan (78).
Referee: Padraig Sutton.
Extratime Man of the Match: Declan O’Brien.