United need to build momentum with a positive start to FAI Cup campaign

Galway United make the long journey to Ferrycarrig Park in Wexford on Saturday for a tricky Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup first round clash against North End United.

The Wexford outfit impressed in the FAI Junior Cup, claiming glory at the Aviva Stadium in May, and Alan Murphy's United will be aware of the threat they pose so a solid display will be needed.

Last Friday goals from Eoin McCormack and Conor Barry edged the Tribesmen into a decent position against Drogheda United in the SSE Aitricity League first division, but the Boynesiders responded to earn a share of the spoils.

It was the second time United had squandered a two-goal advantage away to Drogheda which added to the sense of disappointment. Now the Corribsiders face an uphill task to finish in the play-off spots. Only four matches remain for United, who are still six points behind Drogheda.

Murphy did receive a boost this week when international clearance was finally received for Sean Russell to sign, following the recent recruitment of Evan Murphy and Dara Mulgannon.

Russell, 24, has extensive experience domestically with UCD, Limerick, Drogheda, Shelbourne, and Longford Town. The versatile Russell, who can operate as a left sided or central midfielder, recently featured for Louisville City and Atlantic City in the United States.

“Sean Russell has a lot of quality,” Murphy says. “He has vast experience in the league and now has the hunger to play again. He looks sharp and determined. We just need to build up his fitness levels now. He has definite quality.

"Sean is very technical and he also gives us a threat from his set-piece deliveries. He’ll be putting pressure on our left-sided players and also in the centre of the park. He brings that level of competition in the squad up.”

For both financial and football reasons United will be eager to enjoy a solid cup campaign. The last matches of the regulation league campaign in the first division take place on Saturday September 22, so United will want to ensure they are participating in fixtures after that date.

Longford Town, Finn Harps, Wexford, and Shelbourne are the teams United face between now and the end of the season so significant improvement will be required if United are to climb into the top four.

Before then, though, Murphy's outfit will hope to deliver in the south east.

Murphy has won three, drawn one, and lost one of his five tussles as United boss. Encouraging signs were available in the triumphs over Athlone Town, Cobh Ramblers, and Cabinteely, but there is no disguising the issues which have hindered the team throughout 2018 cost them dearly against UCD and Drogheda.

United's form against the first five clubs in the standings throughout the year has been wretched. UCD are the only team in those positions who United have beaten which captures the main reason why the Tribesmen are so far off the pace.

Murphy and assistant Mark Herrick are shrewd and pragmatic operators, who have displayed a real willingness to give youngsters an opportunity. Christopher Horgan's emergence offers a glimmer of hope, while Wilson Waweru and Adam Rooney, in particular, will also have benefited from their recent outings.

The next month will be important on and off the field for United so the relevance of this weekend's cup tie against North End should not be underestimated.

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