JUST over two years since the demise of Galway United, Friday night will show just how united Galway soccer is when the new Galway FC makes its debut in the League of Ireland First Division, with Longford Town the visitors to Eamonn Deacy Park (7.45pm).
For the first time since 2011, there will be a ‘Galway’ team, rather than a ‘team from Galway’, in the League of Ireland, and anecdotal evidence suggests there will be a healthy attendance on Friday night.
Manager Tommy Dunne has certainly played his part – of the 26 players he has signed, 18 are from Galway, four are from Mayo, while Gary Shanahan (Limerick) joins from Mervue United and Derek O’Brien (Kerry) is as good as an honorary Galway man at this stage, leaving just American, Jake Keegan, and Shane McGinty from Donegal as the lone ‘outsiders’. Compare that to Friday night’s opponents, who haven’t a single local player in their squad, with their 23 made up of 14 Dubs, four from Wicklow, two from Kildare and three overseas players.
It is results that count, but given what Galway FC is trying to achieve – build a team, a club, which Galway people can relate to and Galway players can aspire to – Dunne has to be commended for his approach, and he hopes the people of the West can see what is being done.
“Friday’s attendance will give us an indication of the interest there is in the new club – if we get good support, then this club can really drive forward in the coming years, otherwise it will be like so many others and just struggle for survival.
“I remember playing for Shelbourne against Galway United in the 1990s when they were playing in Galwegians ground [Glenina], the place was absolutely packed and there was a great atmosphere. That’s what we want to bring back, that kind of passion, that kind of crowd, to bring this club on and make it a force.
“For the first time, there is not a lot of money going out of the club, and that includes players’ wages – anything that comes in is going towards the development of the club. The lads are playing for almost nothing, monetary wise – they are playing for pride and for the love of the club, and I want people to know that, to recognise that, and to come and show their support for that,” he said.
As to the game itself, and the season as a whole, Dunne says it would be hard to find a tougher start to the game, with Friday’s home clash with title favourites Longford Town to be followed by an away trip to Waterford United – and a League Cup game against a hungry Mayo League side sandwiched in-between.
“It really is as tough a start as you could get. Longford went very close to promotion last year, and Tony Cousins has been very good in the transfer market, adding real strength to the side by bringing in the likes of Stephen Rice and Pat Sullivan from Shamrock Rovers, Pat Flynn from Shelbourne, Kevin O’Connor from Bray and bringing Don Cowan back from England – they are players you wouldn’t expect to come available, and all have proven Premier Division experience,” Dunne said.
While Longford’s squad for Friday night will be packed with experience, Galway’s relatively young squad has been hit with a massive blow as three players who will be key to their prospects this year are all ruled out through suspensions being carried over from last season.
Stephen Walsh, Ryan Manning and the experienced Derek O’Brien will all be in the stands for Friday’s game, while they might also be joined by Colm Horgan and Marc Ludden, who both picked up knocks in pre-season, but Dunne is confident the two young defenders will be fit for Friday night.
“It is a blow losing the three lads – we have a small enough squad, and it is relatively young as well, so you’re kind of reluctant to thrown in some of the young lads who are only finding their feet at this level, but I have every faith in my players and we’ll just take whatever comes our way,” he said.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Galway United’s chance to close gap on table-toppers Shels
Friday the 13th – unlucky for some – and Galway United will be hoping it is an unlucky night for runaway leaders Shelbourne on Friday evening. Shels, who are currently 10 points clear of second place United, are still unbeaten in this year’s First Division with 12 wins and six draws to their name.
The Tribesmen go into this week’s pivotal fixture after a disappointing 3-2 defeat against Cork City last Friday at Eamonn Deacy Park. The game had a ‘hit-and-run’ feel to it as Colin Healy’s side snatched all three points with ten minutes to go which ended United’s seven-game unbeaten league run.
BY TOM BYRNE
Even so, United replaced Treaty United in second place on goal difference after the Limerick outfit were defeated 4-1 by Cabinteely at the Markets Field.
Shelbourne have been the team to beat this season as they look odds-on to win this season’s First Division with nine games to go. Ian Morris’ side were hampered by a number of Covid cases in their squad for last week’s game against UCD, where they drew 0-0 at the UCD Bowl. It is expected that they will have players returning for their crucial clash against United at Terryland.
The two clubs have faced each other on 75 occasions. Shelbourne being victorious the more often with 39 wins, United defeating the north-Dubliners 17 times and 19 games ending in stalemate. United have hit the Shels net 86 times while the 2019 First Division winners have scored on 132 occasions against United.
The two teams played out a 0-0 draw at Eamonn Deacy Park in the first game this season, while Shelbourne had the upper hand in the reverse fixture when they overcame United 4-0 at Tolka Park in May.
Goal friendly Shels have struck 36 goals in 18 games so far this campaign, with former Shamrock Rovers man Ryan Brennan bagging ten of those. United will look to Wilson Waweru and Ruairi Keating for their main source of goals, with the latter hitting the net on seven occasions this season. Waweru brought his goal tally to six last week when he scored United’s first equalising goal against Cork City.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the soccer preview, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Lomboto’s late strike earns United share of the spoils
Galway United 2
Athlone Town 2
GALWAY United had to twice come from behind against basement side Athlone Town on Monday night to snatch a draw that was, on balance, probably a little harsh on the visiting side.
Completely outplayed in the opening 45 minutes, United had an absolute howler from visiting goalkeeper, Aaron Myles, to thank for going into the break on level terms; and then needed an equaliser five minutes from time to claim a draw against a side that came into the game having lost all four games they had played this season.
Alan Murphy’s side already find themselves nine points behind the league leaders just four games into the season, and a major improvement is needed if they are to finish in the top half of the table and inside the play-off spots.
Their central midfield was way off the mark on Monday night – both Maurice Nugent and Sam Warde were hauled ashore before the final whistle – and having abandoned the 4-4-2 formation which delivered some decent results near the end of last season, they are struggling to get quality ball into the opposition box.
With Shane Duggan expected to return to central midfield after suspension for this Saturday’s trip to Cobh Ramblers, it might be time to go with some out-and-out wingers and get some cohesion in the side.
The first couple of half chances on Monday fell to the home side, but Mikey Place didn’t get any power behind his second minute effort; while Marc Ludden was well off target subsequently.
The visitors, who had the opening half’s best player in their ranks in the guise of Galway native, Ronan Manning, went close a couple of times themselves in the ninth minute, United surviving thanks to Cian Murphy getting a block on Adam Lennon’s shot; while Kevin Horgan pulled off a ‘worldie’ to deny Joel Coustrain from the subsequent corner.
By that stage, the visitors were starting to get on top, and they took a deserved lead in the 22nd minute when Manning’s corner from the left was met by Taner Dogan at the back post to head home as the United marking was, not for the first time this season, shambolic at a set-piece.
Tempers were starting to fray a little, with both sides having two players finding their way into the notebook of Dublin referee, Oliver Moran, before United were gifted an equaliser in the 41st minute.
Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune
Doyle bags hat-trick in Galway WFC romp
GALWAY WFC notched a second win in a row in the Women’s National League when they defeated Limerick 6-1 at the Markets Field on Sunday afternoon.
A McKenna Doyle hat trick and goals from Sadbh Doyle, Chloe Singleton and Aoife Thompson helped the Galway women to a resounding win. Five of the six goals for Galway were assisted by Lynsey McKey during what was a stellar performance by the experienced midfielder.
Galway WFC are back in action at Eamonn Deacy Park tomorrow (Saturday, kick off 3pm) when they welcome league leaders Peamount United.
See full match report in City Tribune Sport.