3 November 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Goals early from Michael Isichei and late from Sean Brennan brought Monaghan United a long way along the stairway to heaven in their Airtricity League promotion/relegation playoff with Galway United at Gortakeegan on Tuesday night – but it’s a job that must be completed at the Terryland Park fastness of the Tribesmen on Friday if the Mons are to dine at the top table of Irish senior soccer next season, writes Peter Hughes.
That Monaghan deserve to supplant Galway in the Premier Division was well demonstrated before a large crowd who generated an atmosphere pulsating with expectation.
Theirs was the more progressive, incisive brand of football, often dominating but never entirely subduing a Galway United side who conjured enough efficiency to justify Mons boss Roddy Collins’ cautionary post-match comment: “We won’t count our chickens – it’s only half-time.”
United’s failure to build on Isichei’s clinical close range finish in the 13th minute left them prone to being pegged back by opponents who shrugged off their cloak of conservatism for a sustained period in the second half before the game’s competitive cauldron boiled over in a mid-pitch melee with ten minutes remaining that resulted in red cards for Monaghan’s Eric Foley and Galway substitute Sean Gavin.
John Brennan’s men lost their momentum after that, and a sustained onslaught by the home side was rewarded with three minutes left on the clock when Sean Brennan coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner to make it game and set if not yet match for the Mons.
Patient passing and an incisive flick through by Foley almost liberated Sean Brennan as early as the second minute, a scrambling save from Conor Winn preventing Galway United from making a nightmare start.
Galway’s first effort came from assertive play from Alan Murphy in central midfield. He strode robustly forward to fire a low drive that Gabriel Sava shepherded closely on its way around the outside of the post.
Emboldened, the visitors worked the ball forward well again in the tenth minute, Mike Gilmour setting up Murphy for another attempt that had more power but considerably less accuracy.
Home nerves were settled in style in the 13th minute, Shane Grimes and Jordan Keegan combining to find Sean Brennan in the box. A little bit of Brennan wizardry and the ball was arrowing towards Michael Isichei, who stabbed home from three yards.
It was a pleasing moment for the fans’ favourite, a wholehearted 20-year-old with plenty of (as yet unrefined) potential who has been used mostly off the bench by Collins this season, but who got his chance in the starting line-up on Tuesday because of the suspension of John Reilly and took it impressively.
Ryan Brennan and Keegan combined to open up another avenue for Sean Brennan in the 20th minute, but the striker went down on the edge of the box under a challenge from Laurence Gaughan. Referee Derek Tomney was perfectly placed and adjudged the tackle a legal one. Two minutes later a right foot volley from the United goalmaker fizzed wide.
Sean was in agony soon afterwards – not due to any Galway tackle but owing to an egregious miss.
The ball fell his way from Keegan’s deflected drive, leaving him clean through on goal but he somehow contrived to shoot wide with the target gaping.
It was symptomatic of the trend of play that Oscar Sibanda, expected to supply the main offensive threat for Galway on the wing, first came to prominence in the game in the 29th minute – in a vital defensive capacity, blockading Keegan to prevent him connecting first-time from the edge of the box with Isichei’s excellent cross on the run from the right flank.
Full report in The Northern Standard

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