There must be times when defender Marc Ludden looks around the League of Ireland – and, indeed, league football in England – and wonders what kind of outfit Galway United would be if they were able to retain the best and brightest stars from the county. Title contenders, one suspects.
In the League of Ireland, Galway natives such as Stephen O’Donnell (Dundalk) and John Russell (Sligo Rovers) would certainly form a formidable central midfield partnership while just imagine what the likes of Preston North End duo Daryl Horgan and Greg Cunningham, Bristol’s Rory Gaffney and QPR’s Ryan Manning would bring to the mix. Loughrea native and former Dundalk and Bristol striker Pat Hoban would be another.
Ludden, though, is a realist. Aside from the fact that, understandably, players by their nature want to play at the highest level, Ludden also notes that until greater investment in the game – and Galway United – is generated, they will find it difficult to hold onto home-grown talent.
“Money talks and I think if you really invested in Galway, in Galway United, and the underage structures, we can continue to bring players up and hopefully we can keep them with us,” says the 27-year-old.
“Ryan Manning progressed through (Cregmore/Claregalway and) Mervue, then was with us (Galway United) in the First Division and now he is playing with QPR. We have Ronan (Ryan’s brother) in now and he is frightening. The amount of talent he has! I have seen Ryan at 16 and 17, around the same age, and Ryan might kill me for saying this, but Ronan is even better. He really is. He is a future star in my eyes.”
The challenge for Galway United will be to ensure the youngster continues to wear the ‘Comer Group’ sponsored jersey for as long as possible and not be lost to the current trend that has seen United shorn of key players by the bigger clubs in the League of Ireland who, in turn, have themselves been relieved of their big-name stars by football clubs in England.
“Again, it comes down to wages and it comes down to players wanting to win Cups and medals, and, obviously, if they are playing with the likes of Dundalk and Cork, there is also Europe involved. That is a huge thing to be playing Europa League or Champions League football. How could anyone say no to that?
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.