WHERE to now for Galway United? Well, the obvious immediate answer is Donegal, as they head to Ballybofey tonight to take on Finn Harps (8pm), but in terms of the bigger picture of the season, some tough decisions need to be made.
United have been underwhelming so far this season, and while that can be partly excused by the fact that manager, Shane Keegan, has had to rebuild his squad almost from scratch after losing a slew of players following relegation last season, it still doesn’t justify the string of poor performances in their first five league games of the season.
Yes, they are unbeaten in those five games, but they have dropped points against sides – UCD, Drogheda United, and Longford Town – predicted to be battling for promotion honours this season, and they really need to get their campaign going with a win in Finn Park tonight.
At least, last week’s game against Longford produced a clean sheet for the home side – only their second in 38 league matches under Keegan, and just a 5th in 46 league and cup games since the start of the 2017 season – but it was the lone highlight on a dour night in Eamonn Deacy Park.
They go into tonight’s game fourth in the table, four points behind league leaders, UCD, but with the top four at the end of the season all having a part to play in this year’s promotion race, they are still well in the mix at this early stage.
The league winners will be automatically promoted, with the next three sides all taking part in the play-offs. The teams that finished third and fourth will meet in the first play-off game; the winners of that play the team that finishes second; and the winner of that plays the team that finished 9th in the Premier Division.
It’s a long-winded way to get promotion, especially for the side that finishes fourth, so United need to pull their socks up, and a win tonight against Harps would see them do just that.
It might be early stages in the league, but already there would appear to be tough decisions that need to be made by Keegan and his management team, starting with team captain, Ryan Connolly, who has so far this season been a pale shadow of the player who was one of United’s stars in their 2016 Premier Division campaign.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.