With pre-season fixtures arriving thick and fast, Galway FC continue preparing for their crucial Airtricity League opener with Longford Town on March 7 as Athlone Town visit Eamonn Deacy Park this Saturday (7.45pm kick off ).
The midlanders will provide Galway FC with another stern test as Tommy Dunne's side also played in the Showgrounds against Sligo Rovers last night.
As the start of Galway FC's first campaign edges closer Dunne has reason to be optimistic having stitched a promising squad together over the past two months.
Derek O'Brien is the latest addition to the Galway FC ranks and Dunne is thrilled to have obtained the signature of a “proven” and “experienced” player.
“I know Derek well and when I won the first division trophy with Cork City he was a valuable player for me,” Dunne says. “I know exactly what he can do and I'm happy that he has joined us. The information and experience Derek has built up throughout his career will help the younger lads.
“It is good to get a player like him, he is locally based and has previously played with Galway United and Salthill Devon, so he knows exactly what we are looking for. He will be an important person for us this year.”
The capture of O'Brien is a boost to Galway FC, who will be relying on the Tralee native and player/coach Alan Murphy's vast knowledge to lend experience for a predominantly youthful outfit.
O'Brien has been injured for a couple of weeks so is doubtful for the Athlone match that offers an ideal opportunity for Galway FC, according to Dunne.
“It is brilliant for us to be getting matches at Eamonn Deacy Park. The way the pre-season matches have been scheduled has been helpful for us and the preparations have been going OK. Athlone have some decent players and I think they have enough to make an impact in the premier division.
“We are tipping away nicely, but we just have to keep things smooth for the next fortnight so that we are ready when the first division starts.
“We cannot wait to get going. When the League starts, it will be a great test for us, so these kind of fixtures against the likes of Athlone will give us a good indicator as to where we really are at.”
Athlone, now under the stewardship of a former Galway United player Mick Cooke, expect to be competitive in the top flight. Cooke is following the formula that has been successful for him at Monaghan United and Drogheda United by attracting tried and trusted players who are used to his methods.
Cooke has proven to be a shrewd operator when operating with a limited budget and knows the Dublin market quite well, transforming Monaghan before a respectable stint on the banks of the Boyne with Drogheda where he came within a whisker of guiding them to a shock FAI Cup final triumph over Sligo Rovers last November.
It promises to be a particularly tight first division and it is being viewed as the strongest in several years, so Dunne is aware of the differing threats that are imminent.
“We just have to make sure that we are ready to hit the ground running. Other teams in the division will be strong that is for certain, but we have to keep things going ourselves so the next few weeks are vital. I don't envisage us signing any more players, so we need to keep working hard with the guys we have got in.
“I'm encouraged by how things are developing and the players have been very enthusiastic. There are some very talented players with us and we want to help them make progress. This is a good and exciting time in Galway and we will do our best to ensure they develop and improve.”