As Galway United’s Premier League plight deepens the FAI Cup’s significance increases and tomorrow evening’s quarter final tussle with Bray Wanderers at Terryland Park (7.45pm ) carries vast consequence.
A win would edge Galway into the penultimate round of the Blue Ribband providing a valuable dollop of optimism and confidence in these uncertain times. Though Galway and Bray have not been enjoying the most efficient results in the top flight recently, both outfits will be anxious and optimistic about clearing this hurdle.
The clubs have clashed on three occasions this year, Galway emerging as victors in two, while a Paddy Kavanagh-inspired Bray triumphed on the Dyke Road in Jeff Kenna’s debut as United manager in April.
Since that crushing defeat Galway have outfoxed Bray twice, but the fact that UCD and Finn Harps sit on Galway's list of league conquests is a source of worry. There is no disguising that before the Cobh Ramblers debacle Galway had been offering glimpses of improvement, but at this stage of the campaign all that is required is end product. Final scorelines are all that truly matter.
Obviously performance levels occupy a crucial role in determining the ultimate outcome of a contest, but Galway must be eager and enthusiastic against Bray. There was a surprisingly lack of urgency from United when Cobh sauntered to a surprisingly facile success at St Colman's Park and a repeat display won't be tolerated on the Dyke Road.
A trio of League losses on the spin have seen Galway fall to the foot of the table, and Bray will be emboldened by their win over UCD at the end of last month. It was only the Seagulls second success in 10 matches so it is easy to understand why they are so intent to deliver on the banks of the Corrib.
There will be alterations made to the Galway team with Alan Murphy and Iarlaith Daveron both ineligible having featured in the competition already for Shamrock Rovers and Longford Town. Seamus Conneely, Kenna, John Fitzgerald, and Marc McCulloch are likely to form the back four that will need to assist Gary Rogers.
In the centre of the park Kenna may opt for John Lester's combativeness as Galway were flummoxed by Cobh's robust approach. Lester would add security to a midfield in which John Russell's creative juices will be of paramount importance.
Due to Daveron's unavailability Russell may be forced into a role on the left with Ciaran Foley partnering Lester inside. Depriving Alan Cawley of time and space is necessary if Bray are to be nudged from the reckoning, but Gavin Whelan, Paddy Kavanagh, and Ger Rowe can all play too if permitted.
In attack the pacy Derek Glynn continues to be under utilised, but the Claremorris native is blessed with a rare clinical finishing ability. That was proven on July 18 at the Carlisle Grounds as Galway made a smash and grab raid to pinch the full complement.
It ought to be similarly tight tomorrow as Galway and Bray seek to enter the demanding closing weeks of the 2008 season with a dash of hope in the heart.
Kenna is appealling for fans to turn out in large numbers for this cup clash.
The United boss says they have a great opportunity to make it to the semi-finals of the premier cup competition in the country, and a big home following could make all the difference as United bid to continue their good cup run.
"I would appeal to fans to make the effort and bring a few of their friends along as well. It is not every day you reach a cup quarter-final and this is a great opportunity for the club. It should be a great occasion.”