SSE Airtricity League first division favourites Longford Town will provide Galway FC with a stern challenge in tomorrow evening's seasonal opener at Eamonn Deacy Park (7.45pm).
Tommy Dunne's side has been given an awkward contest to start this inaugural campaign. Longford, loaded with domestic experience, are expected to be the standard bearers at this level.
Galway FC's squad might not possess the same depth and wealth of knowledge as Longford, but Dunne reckons the Corribsiders can make an impact.
"We have plenty of quality of players and I think we can do well this year," Dunne says. " I think the game against Longford will give us a good indication as to how we will do. Once the season is eight or 10 games old we will know exactly how we are faring, but we are under no illusions it will be a tough game against Longford. However they will know it will also be a tough game for them too and we can make it difficult for them.” Dunne says while Longford are favourites for the title, Shelbourne also look strong, while Waterford will be in the mix too. “Then throw in Shamrock Rovers B, who will be a bit of an unknown quantity. It all means that the games will be hard to call every week, but for spectators that is a good thing."
Suspensions rule out Derek O'Brien, Stephen Walsh, and the immensely promising Ryan Manning, so Dunne does not have a full deck from which to choose with Colm Horgan (hamstring) and Marc Ludden (groin) also doubtful.
"It is a blow that we will definitely be without the three suspended players, who would all have been involved in the team or on the bench," Dunne says. "We just have to deal with it and an opportunity will open up for somebody else.
"There is competition for places at the club and that is a healthy thing. We do have hungry young players eager to develop and that means they all want to be involved. I think last season a lot of the lads impressed with Mervue United, so there is an increased expectancy for them to deal with now. There will be an interesting feel to our games, especially the early ones and whoever is selected will want to perform well.”
Despite a disappointing loss to UCD at Drom last Saturday, Galway FC's pre-season was encouraging. In the victories over Sligo Rovers, Dundalk, Athlone Town, and Mervue United, Dunne's players showed themselves to be well able to pass and probe. Defeats did occur against Limerick, Sligo, and the students, so Dunne is not getting carried away.
"Pre-season was reasonable. Ideally you'd like more time and there was a getting-to-know-one-another period too.
"Friendlies in pre-season can be a little misleading because things can be totally different when points are at stake. We have a hard start against the favourites, but, the way I'm looking at it is that you've got to play everybody else four times in the year. It is better to play them in the first game rather than the last."
Longford's squad is sprinkled with former Shamrock Rovers' players and Dunne is relishing the chance of facing his cousin, Tony Cousins, who will be in the opposing dugout.
"Tony has been building a group, but I'd say even he is surprised at the standard of player that he now has. To get Stephen Rice is a huge boost to them, but they also have signed Kevin O'Connor, a midfield player I always rated when he was at Bray. Then throw in the likes of Pat Sullivan and Pat Flynn, who have European experience with Rovers, and you have a vastly experienced side. Don Cowan has just returned from England too and he should be effective for Longford this season. Still despite all the names in the Longford squad, I feel we can cause them some problems too."