Tolka Park will provide the backdrop for tomorrow's much anticipated SSE Airtricity League first division encounter involving Shelbourne and Galway FC.
Since the start of the season Shels have set the pace in a tight competition, but a Galway triumph would move them to within four points of Johnny McDonnell's team. That should certainly focus Galwegian minds because this is a fixture of importance for the Tribesmen.
Defeat must be avoided by a Galway outfit that has been solid on the road in the league - the record currently stands at two victories and four draws.
Shels have been efficient at the Drumcondra venue registering 14 points from a possible 18, so Galway will need to avoid lapses that have cost them occasionally this year.
Manager Tommy Dunne says the stakes will be piled high when Galway visit the capital. “We will try to get something out of the Shels match and we have to try to get something out of the next couple of weeks. It is vital for us that we do.”
When Galway and Shels collided at Eamonn Deacy Park last month, the visitors completed an ultimate smash and grab, pouncing in the last minute. It was a brutal conclusion for Galway, who had summoned a smart, if goal shy, display. What that clash confirmed, though, was just how resilient and resourceful Shels can be. McDonnell is a wily League of Ireland operator and his blend of youth and experience has been highly impressive to date.
Injuries and suspensions have impacted hugely on Galway recently during a hectic schedule of games, including four away ties in a row in the three domestic competitions.
With Cobh gutsy initially at St Colman's Park on Friday, Galway remained calm and eventually emerged convincing 5-1 winners. On Tuesday in the quarter-final of the EA Sports Cup against Wexford Youths at Ferrycarrig Park, Galway had a plethora of chances, but they were caught out by a spirited home outfit, who triumphed 4-3 on penalties after the match had concluded in a 1-1 draw after extra-time.
It was a demoralising loss for Galway, who dictated the tempo, but an honest Wexford side advanced to the semi-final stage by virtue of two Graham Doyle penalty saves. Dunne felt it was a game Galway should have won. “If you don’t take your chances, that is what happens,” he said.
“We had ample chances in 90 minutes, we just didn’t take them and when you don’t score, you are always leaving yourself open. In extra-time we conceded a sloppy goal. I see the reasons, though, and they are that we didn’t make the right decisions at the right times. They didn’t have a full team, but they dogged it out. ”
The suspended Stephen Walsh and Republic of Ireland schools’ captain Ryan Manning, who sits his Leaving Certificate from next Wednesday, were Galway's main absentees in the southeast and both could have made a difference according to Dunne. “It is so frustrating considering the chances we created and balls whipping across the box. It is something we need to really look at.
“I know the situation with Ryan Manning, who has his schooling. That is totally understandable. It is important for him. In other games silly decisions rob you of players, who could go to get you a goal. You have to move on, you just have to.”
Galway will hope to cleanse the unfortunate cup loss when visiting Tolka tomorrow. Crucial contests are arriving thick and fast so Galway will be keen to make an impact against the current first division standard bearers, Shels.
•Galway United Supporters’ Trust is running a bus to Friday’s SSE Airtricity League first division match at Tolka Park. The bus will depart from The Dail Bar, Middle Street, Galway, at 4pm. Contact Ronan Coleman 087-6972823.