Still plenty to work on for Walsh but his Tribesmen continue to fly high
Galway 0-17 Monaghan 1-10
Everything continues to look rosy for Galway as a fifth straight win has given them a first league final spot in more than a decade, but the real test comes next weekend against Dublin in Salthill.
After entering half-time with as poor a quarter-hour as they've produced all year, Galway were boosted by the sending-off of Monaghan's Fintan Kelly. They replied with six points without response to power on to victory, and even when Kieran Hughes hit a crisp injury-time goal, Galway didn't care a jot. Next weekend pits the All-Ireland champions with the Division 2 champions, a side with four Sam Maguire titles in a row against Kevin Walsh's outfit, who haven't had a sniff of September since Walsh was a player himself.
Even with their place in the final secured the Galway manager will want to see his side test the best.
"Our concentration levels in the last few minutes wasn't what it should have been. Maybe it was because the cushion was there, that was what it could have been," said Walsh.
"We made a few subs as well so maybe it was a little bit of shape. It's good to learn the lesson though and come out the right side of it. That's something we will speak about during the week.
"But I don't think there was too many that said we would be unbeaten at this stage, including ourselves.
"Ten points out of ten is really, really good and we have our status for next year and we'll see what happens after that."
The loss of Patrick Sweeney to injury after just nine minutes was a big blow to Galway, but as it turned out, his replacement Seán Armstrong went on to deliver a man of the match performance as Galway's playmaker.
When he arrived into the action, Galway were 0-2 to 0-1 ahead after Paul Conroy and Barry McHugh found the target, although Jack McCarron's free soon levelled matters for Monaghan.
Three of the next four points went to the home side as they seemed to make the most of their direct running and support on the shoulder in the face of Monaghan's defensive wall, but a couple of points from Conor McManus (left) and another from McCarron gave Monaghan a 0-7 to 0-5 interval lead.
"Before half-time there was 15 minutes where it was just flat, too flat for our liking. We got them back into the dressing room and had a few words and definitely the intensity levels lifted up higher," said Walsh.
"I'd be much happier with the second half, with the application levels and intensity, apart from a few instances in the last 20 minutes."
But just before the break Kelly was shown a straight red card for kicking out at Gary O'Donnell, after the Galway man had fouled the Monaghan player. As well as the red card, the scoreable free was reversed, which was the game's significant moment.
"I don't know, I might see it later on but we thought he (Kelly) was wrestling himself free," said Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke.
"It was the changing of the game. We have to learn from it. But very disappointed with it. We were going well at that stage. We were well in the game. But as the game went on the boys started to tire."
With Damien Comer powerful up front and Eoghan Kerin among some excellent defensive displays, Galway were still good value for a fifth straight win. By the time Kieran Hughes helped himself to a late goal, Galway were so far ahead that they could have conceded another and still won.
Shorn of that extra body in defence when down to 14, Monaghan began to struggle with Galway's strong ball-carriers.
Comer started the second half with a great point and Shane Walsh did similar, while a couple of McHugh frees and Brannigan and Adrian Varley scores pushed Galway well ahead.
For the most part Kerin was handed the job of marking Conor McManus and he had a tough day on the Annaghdown man, with McManus's only second-half point coming from a free in the 52nd minute - Monaghan's first of the half.
That score put three points between the sides, but Galway went on to hit three more without reply and five of the next six scores to be certain of the win.
Scorers - Galway: B McHugh 0-5 (5f); D Comer 0-3; J Heaney, A Varley & P Conroy 0-2 each; S Walsh, E Brannigan & S Armstrong (f) 0-1 each. Monaghan: K Hughes 1-3; C McManus 0-4 (3f); J McCarron 0-2 (1f); R Beggan 0-1 ('45).
Galway - R Lavelle 7; D Kyne 8, S Ó Ceallaigh 8, E Kerin 9; G O'Donnell 7, G Bradshaw 7, C Sweeney 8; P Conroy 8, C Duggan 7; J Heaney 8, S Walsh 6, E Brannigan 6; P Sweeney 5, D Comer 8, B McHugh 7. Subs: S Armstrong 9 for Sweeney (9), P Cooke 7 for Duggan (48), A Varley 8 for Walsh (49), S Kelly 6 for O'Donnell (55), T Flynn for Heaney (69), F Burke 7 for McHugh (70).
Monaghan - R Beggan 7; R Wylie 6, K Duffy 6, C Boyle 7; K O'Connell 6, P McGuirk 8, V Corey 6; K Hughes 9, N Kearns 6; R McAnespie 7, N McAdam 6, F Kelly 7; C McManus 6, J McCarron 6, M Bannigan 6. Subs: C McCarthy 5 for McManus (12-18, blood) & for McCarron (50), D Ward 6 for Bannigan (36), D Wylie 5 for McGuirk (44), D Hughes 6 for McAdam (46), O Duffy 5 for Corey (59).
Ref - B Cassidy (Derry)