HISTORY could be in the making for one Galway United player this season when the club gets its First Division campaign underway in a fortnight’s time.
United are back in the lower tier of the national league after a hugely frustrating 2017 season, which saw one of the strongest squads the club has had in a number of years suffer relegation.
That might sound a far-fetched claim, but there has never before been an exodus to top sides to match what has happened since October: Colm Horgan has joined champions, Cork City; and Stephen Folan and Ronan Murray have gone to a Dundalk side that finished second in their chase for a fourth-consecutive title last season.
Rory Hale has joined a Derry City side that finished fourth, and one that many had expected to challenge for the title only for the club to suffer the heartbreaking loss of their captain, Ryan McBride, who died in his sleep in March.
Gavan Holohan has also left (Waterford United), as have David Cawley (Sligo Rovers) and Kevin Devaney (Bohemians); Niall Maher has returned to England; and neither Conor Winn nor Padraic Cunningham have signed contracts.
That leaves just two regular starters from last season – Marc Ludden and Eoin McCormack – to pick up the pieces as United bid to bounce back to the top flight, but it is likely to be a ‘blast from the past’ who makes the headlines this season.
A number of former players have returned to the club as Shane Keegan tries to rebuild a squad from scratch to challenge for promotion, and it is the return of Alan Murphy – 18 years after he made his United debut – which catches the eye.
Murphy is just one goal shy of equalling Paul McGee’s club record of 74 league goals, a record that has stood for 25 years, and one which many expect him to finally beat this season, even if it is playing from a deep-lying midfield role.
Murphy made his United debut when coming on as an 81st minute substitute for Mike Quirke in a 1-1 draw in the Premier Division with Sligo Rovers in The Showgrounds on April 16, 2000, for his one and only appearance that season. He has made 274 appearances in 10 seasons at the club.
His return to United, seven years after last playing for the club, gives Murphy the chance to become United’s all-time leading scorer in the league, as he trails Paul ‘Ski’ McGee by one goal – or three, depending on how you regard promotion/relegation play-offs.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.