WAY back in 1992, Christy Costello was part of the St Patrick’s side which made their Galway and District League debut that season and 21 years on, he leads the Caherlistrane side into the Western Hygiene Supplies Premier Division for the first time ever when they host St Bernard’s on Sunday morning.
St Patrick’s have been consistent performers in the lower divisions down the years and an unbeaten 13 match run at the end of last season helped them to the First Division title last May.
In preparation for the new campaign, the newcomers have been back in training for some time and will be working off much the same squad as last season. Rory Glynn, Ronan Conneely, Eanna Glynn, David Geraghty, David Lee, Enda and Kevin Heenaghan are amongst the seasoned campaigners that have served the club well, but now face the most severe challenge of their careers.
Tuam Celtic are the second promoted side and it is their first time back in the top flight since 1992. Like their near neighbours, they face a stiff challenge in their new surroundings and with games against the top four Premier finishers of last season in their first five outings, they face a difficult start to the new season.
The North Galway side will be working off much the same panel as last season, with just former Corrib Celtic central defender Enda Mullarkey the only new arrival. However, the likes of Declan McHugh, Gavin Connell, John Ross Bodkin and Rickie Kent have served the Celtic cause well down the years and they will no doubt thrive in the top division.
On Sunday morning, they travel down the road to Athenry for their opening contest. For the two promoted teams, the name of the game is survival and according to Pat’s supremo Costello: “It is all about been competitive and after finally getting to the Premier League, staying there.”
The arrival of St. Pat’s and Tuam Celtic has brought the number of country teams in the top flight to four as they join Athenry and St Bernard’s who both finished in the top half of the table last season.
Both sides will be operating with much the same personnel as previous years and while Athenry look to be losing Seamie Crowe to Mervue United, they have added locals Damien Rooney and Paddy Evison.
Aaron Van Nierkerk will be a loss as the young man moves on to fresh pastures across channel, while manager Gabriel Glavin will be hoping his notoriously slow starters can make a better start to the season than in previous years.
St Bernard’s have appointed Timmy Holian as the new manager and he has added former Galway United and NUI Galway midfielder Jonathan Keane to his squad. The local lad will be a huge addition to the side, as will another newcomer Mike Tierney. The former Hibernians player lives in the area and he will bring a lot of experience to a pretty settled side.
The Abbeyknockmoy outfit have finished fourth in the table on each of the last two seasons and with maybe a little more belief in themselves, they have the ability to make some giant steps and challenge for honours.
Elsewhere, Mervue United continue to set the standards to which everyone else must aspire. Chasing a fourth title in succession, they will be difficult to match and despite the loss of Paul Sinnott and Vinny O’Connor, they have added to an already experienced side with the addition of Corrib Rangers duo Barry Moran and Simon Walsh.
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.