Galway FC face a demanding FAI Ford Cup third round clash against SSE Airtricity League premier division table toppers Dundalk tomorrow at Oriel Park.
The success story of the domestic season so far, Dundalk continue to earn admirers for their stylish approach so Galway will need to summon a brave and battling display.
Galway manage Tommy Dunne watched title-chasing Dundalk defeat Limerick FC at the Louth venue last Friday so the visitors are aware of the potent threat Stephen Kenny's developing side carries. Protecting a proud unbeaten home league record in 2014, Dundalk will be widely expected to progress to the quarter-finals of the Blue Ribband, but Galway are intent on producing a plucky performance.
On Saturday Galway registered its most encouraging result to date when coming from behind to beat Longford Town at City Calling Stadium courtesy of goals from Colm Horgan and Gary Shanahan. Defeats to Shelbourne and Wexford Youths had hindered Galway, but Dunne was thrilled by the gritty response in the midlands. “It was the worst possible start against a team that’s really been impressive,” Dunne reflected. “In fairness to the boys, they kept going and we played some really good stuff in the first half and we could have been maybe 2-1 up before half time only for a brilliant save from the Longford keeper.
“In the second half we found it difficult to get up the pitch, but in saying that, as long as we defended in as solid a fashion as we did at times, it allowed us to attack as well.
“Jake [Keegan] was unlucky with a lob and then the goal was a great goal. I think over the course of the season we’ve deserved a bit of luck. That isn’t the best we’ve played, we’ve actually played a lot better in a lot of matches and lost, so maybe we got our rewards for persistence of trying to win matches.”
Despite leaking a goal at the outset Galway recovered which pleased Dunne, who knows Galway must be steady defensively against Dundalk. “We changed it a little bit and maybe gave ourselves a little bit more solidness as a team but in saying that, Longford are very strong and I still think they will win the league.”
Regardless of what happens in the cup, Dunne was satisfied Galway maintained their league play-off aspirations. The Longford success provides Galway with an injection of confidence ahead of the long trip to the border town. “We badly needed these points, it gives us a chance of a play-off spot and that’s what we’re chasing between now and the end of the season,” Dunne said.
“It’s a fantastic three points. It was a great ball in from Jason Molloy and Gary Shanahan took a chance and he scored at the the back post.
“We’ve got six games left and now it’s back in our hands as regards a play-off spot and that’s what we wanted.”
Tomorrow the cup offers Galway an ideal opportunity to make a statement on the national stage against much vaunted opponents.
Galway's Ger Hanley and Gary Shanahan both had stints with Dundalk so they also know just how the football club matters to the community there. Though Dundalk will be without the gifted former Galway United star Stephen O'Donnell, recovering from a knee injury, there is still a western flavour in the Lilywhites ranks. Daryl Horgan and Pat Hoban have made classy contributions to Dundalk's campaign in 2014.
The fascinating collision of the two Horgan brothers - Colm wearing the maroon of Galway against Dundalk's Daryl - is one of the many sub plots. Dundalk are warm favourites, and Galway must be diligent and dynamic if they are to secure a shock success or even a Monday night replay at Eamonn Deacy Park.
• Galway United Supporters Trust is running a bus to Friday’s FAI Cup third round match at Oriel Park, leaving The Dail Bar, Cross Street, Galway, at 3pm. Contact Ronan Coleman 087-6972823 or Dominick Walsh 087-9163438.