GALWAY United manager Shane Keegan has already begun the rebuilding work for next season’s First Division campaign, which he intends will see United make an immediate return to the top flight following relegation last month.
Keegan, who is entering the second year of a two-year contract, admits both the club’s budget and playing panel from 2017 will be filleted before the start of the new season, but he has already begun the process of building a squad to win promotion at the first time of asking.
“Obviously the budget will be cut, but I think we will still have one of the highest budgets in the First Division next year. The division will be very different to the last couple of seasons, when Limerick won it in 2016, and Waterford United this year.
“Both of those clubs started the season with budgets that demanded they win the title – that won’t be the case next season. We will have one of the better budgets, but there won’t be much between the likes of ourselves, Cobh, Finn Harps, and Drogheda, and then UCD have the benefit of scholarships.
“I think there will be up to five clubs with realistic ambitions of winning the title, and up to eight of the 10 teams who will feel they can finish in the top three which, depending on the format next year, could secure a play-off position,” Keegan said.
Every one of United’s 2017 squad became a free agent once the final whistle went on the last game of the season, and a number are expected to be playing elsewhere next season. This year’s captain, Colm Horgan, is expected to join Cork City; while Rory Hale is also anticipated to be playing European football next season, with Cork City, Dundalk, and Derry City all interested in signing the Belfast native.
This season’s top scorer, Ronan Murray, has also attracted interest from Cork City, but he is more likely to sign for Sligo Rovers, as he has a new business up-and-running in Belmullet in north Mayo.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.