By Shaun Casey
AFTER back-to-back victories over Ulster rivals Donegal and table-toppers Roscommon, Monaghan breathed a sigh of relief last Sunday, their first of the season. After all the huffing and puffing that followed their defeats to Armagh and Kerry, things aren’t looking too bad.
They’re not safe from relegation just yet, but those fears have been slighted eased thanks to two home wins on the trot. Another victory this weekend and suddenly Vinny Corey’s men will be looking up rather than peaking over their shoulder.
But they won’t get carried away either. There is still a lot of football to be played over the next couple of weeks and there are guaranteed to be another few bumps on the road before all is said and done.
The Farney men head west on Sunday to take on Galway, who are on the same points as Corey’s charges after four games. The hosts go into this game off the back of a draw against Donegal, while they also picked up a single point against Mayo in the first round of the league.
In between times, the Tribesmen lost to Connacht rivals Roscommon by the minimum of margins before nudging past Tyrone with three points to spare on home turf before the break in the league. And like Monaghan, they’re not out of the woods just yet.
Rob Finnerty made his return to Pádraic Joyce’s team last weekend, coming off the bench at half time to hit 0-2 in the second period, but Galway remain without their dangermen Damien Comer and Shane Walsh.
In their absence, Matthew Tierney has stepped forward as the man to stop and he put in another great shift against Donegal, top scoring with 1-3, following up his six-point haul against the Red Hand County.
Sean Kelly is another that has really impressed this season, while the return of Ian Burke and Peter Cooke has strengthened their squad depth.
Galway are a side looking to push on from a hugely positive 2022 season, where they made the All-Ireland final.
Joyce has got his side ticking along nicely and the last thing he’ll want is to be relegated to Division Two.
It’s no coincidence that Monaghan’s uptake in fortunes has come about since the return of Darren Hughes, Jack McCarron and Conor McManus. McCarron top scored for Corey’s side in Clones, finishing with 0-4 to his name.
It’s all to play for in Salthill and Monaghan certainly have nothing to fear. It’s feels like they’ve turned a corner and if they can get one over the men in maroon, then they should secure their status for yet another season.