Youthful Galway FC make light of hectic schedule to secure promotion to Premier Division

Goal scorers Ryan Manning, Alex Byrne and Gary Shanahan celebrate Galway FC's victory over UCD in the League Promotion Final at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Goal scorers Ryan Manning, Alex Byrne and Gary Shanahan celebrate Galway FC's victory over UCD in the League Promotion Final at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

TO Tolka Park in 1986, Lansdowne Road in 1991 and Turners Cross in 1997, you can now add Eamonn Deacy Park in 2014.

Those first three years listed are the years in which Galway United lifted a major domestic trophy – the FAI Cup in 1991, and the League Cup in the other two years. Yes there were First Division title wins and promotions in other seasons, but 2014 was about more than achieving promotion – it was as much about a victory off the pitch as it was success on it.

Friday night’s 3-0 win over UCD secured a 5-1 aggregate win for Galway FC in the SSE Airtricity League promotion final and with it a place in the Premier Division next season, capping a magical season for the Tribesmen.

But it also capped a fairytale season for those Galway United fans who never gave up hope when the club was booted out of the League of Ireland at the end of the 2011 season; for those who stood in the wind and rain – and the odd day of sunshine – on Shop Street and William Street for the last three years, keeping the name of Galway United alive.

When their licence application to compete in the 2012 First Division was rejected, it would have been understandable if the Galway United Supporters’ Trust (GUST) decided to pack up the tent and move on. Instead, they kept believing that their club would rise again, and rise it did on Friday night.

It was also a victory for the other three entities who came together with the supporters to form Galway FC. It took a lot for Mervue United and Salthill Devon to agree to drop out of the League and instead give their backing to the plans for a single club to represent Galway City and County.

As with every deal, there were some sweeteners thrown in – the two clubs have exclusive access from Galway to the U-19 national league – but for the two biggest clubs in Galway, and clubs with massive ambitions, it undoubtedly hurt to bow out of the country’s domestic league, so they are to be applauded for that, and for the manner in which they have backed Galway FC this year.

The entire project could not be successful without the backing of the Galway FA, who have one of the finest grounds in the country, and with work to be completed on the dressing rooms and offices under the Comer Stand in time for the start of the 2015 season, they now have the stage which they deserve.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.