With an EA Sports Cup final place secured Galway United will be hoping to build on Monday's satisfying penalty shootout success over Dundalk when hosting Derry City in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division at Eamonn Deacy Park tomorrow.
Goalkeeper Ger Hanley made two remarkable saves denying Ronan Finn and David McMillan as a depleted United outfit caused a shock in the west. After an interesting match ended scoreless Stephen Walsh, David O'Leary, Jake Keegan, and Colm Horgan all converted spot-kicks for Galway, who will face St Patrick's Athletic in the decider on September 19.
Between now and then several critical league encounters are scheduled with the visit of the improving Candystripes, who defeated Longford Town last weekend, significant. “It is a massive game,” Dunne acknowledges. "That is why we have to get ourselves recovered and ready for Friday. For us it is probably a more important game. Derry will have the bit between their teeth after a good win over Longford.
“We have to make sure we are not having a hangover after the Dundalk game. We need to be ready to go for that game on Friday. I think everybody knows within the club that the run in will be tough. We need to pick up as least as many points in this phase as we took in the last one. That would give ourselves a great chance to make sure we are in the Premier Division next year.”
Having suffered an unfortunate top flight loss against St Patrick's at Richmond Park on Friday following the dismissal of goalkeeper Conor Winn United summoned a gutsy performance to beat a Dundalk side, who rested a string of regulars. “If you can pick up a place in a Cup final along the way you'll take it,” Dunne smiled. “The lads were fabulous; they worked their socks off on Friday in Inchicore. Physically it was tough. To travel back train two days they got themselves ready and prepared for the Dundalk game.
“It was a huge game for us. The performance from goalkeeper right through I was just delighted. We had three under 19s on the bench and David O'Leary. Due to the way we were playing we went with a 4-4-2 with had David as the experienced player on the bench. We had two kids and Kevin Horgan, a goalkeeper on the bench.
Dunne confirmed that promising striker Padraic Cunningham will miss at least six weeks with a knee injury, but Enda Curran may return from a hamstring problem soon. “We have hit a bit of an injury crisis at the moment,” Dunne said. “We have Enda out with a hamstring, Padraic out with a knee, Conor Barry, Andy O'Connell, Marc Ludden, and Ryan Connolly too. We have a lot of players struggling with injuries. For us we have to try to get these guys back fit and right for the league. Being realistic the league is the most important thing for us and I'm not being disrespectful.”
Dunne highlighted Hanley's excellent contribution in the Dundalk triumph. “In fairness to Ger he made two great saves and the guys who took the penalties finished them fantastically well. We are just delighted to be in a Cup final. We will look to Friday now because the Cup final is down the road. When that comes around we will look forward to it. We are hoping it will be here at Eamonn Deacy Park in front of a full house. Please God, who knows? We might even get a bit of silverware.”
Popular custodian Hanley, the star of Monday's nerve shredding win, was 'delighted' to represent the club in such a high profile fixture. "I was delighted to be honest, to a win a match like this, I suppose that is why you wanted to play football always," Hanley commented. "To win big matches and to get to a final I'm just thrilled to have played my role in it.”
A groin strain bothered Hanley recently, but the former St Joseph's College student is encouraged that the club is continuing to develop. "It can be very frustrating getting injured. When I got in earlier in the season it was disheartening to pick up an injury, but my goal for the rest of the season is to stay fit and to stay in the team. Obviously Conor Winn has done very well when he came in so there is good competition there.
"I enjoyed the shootout. I think as a goalkeeper you don't feel too much pressure. In the shootout you just decide and dive.
"It is brilliant for the club. The club endured a rough time, but to get promotion in the first year back and now to get to a Cup final it is amazing. To be back in the Premier Division where the club belongs now it is also great to have an occasion like the EA Sports Cup final.”