Rarely has a defeat at the penultimate stage of a cup competition been received with such contentment, but on a pleasant Monday night in front of a moderate but passionate audience Galway United demonstrated that top flight status can be retained by delivering a smashing performance against League Cup specialists Derry City.
United's thoughts have briskly returned to the grind of premier division survival, and tomorrow's tussle (7.45pm at Terryland ) with UCD carries deep implications. A home victory would steer Galway out of the bottom three for the first time in 2008 which would be a laudable achievement considering the issues that have hampered the club recently.
Though the students have lost five of their past half dozen matches, they ought to be treated with the utmost respect.
True, Galway did nick the full complement of spoils at Belfield in May courtesy of Derek Glynn's smooth finish, but Pete Mahon's charges are not short of tidy footballers. Ultimately UCD have failed to rattle the net with sufficient frequency, ensuring the students must now start to attain positive results.
Matches are arriving thick and fast for those burdened with difficulties at the foot of the table, but United enter this fixture with confidence returning to the system. That Galway's vibrancy was not rewarded with a victory over Derry proved harrowing, but there were significant reasons for optimism.
Gary Rogers' penalty save that denied Mark Farren was a high calibre stop; Jeff Kenna offered glimpses of footballing craft marshalling the defence; in the centre of the park what the John Lester and Ciaran Foley partnership lacked in elegance was offset by their enthusiasm for combat; wide on the right Jay O'Shea's development continues; and striker Jesper Jorgensen's relevance in the tie was encouraging too. Jorgensen spearheaded the attack intelligently, and with John Russell adding the strokes of skill, Galway are suddenly hopeful again.
Still, there is no disputing how critical the UCD contest is. Last Friday in Ballybofey O'Shea prompted Galway to a satisfactory success that injected the account with three valuable points. A similar haul is required against UCD, who also crave a triumph.
Matt Gregg, Alan Mahon, Conor Kenna, Brian King, and Ronan Finn are all capable performers at this level and UCD can play well if permitted. Again the importance of the midfield joust should not be underestimated as the students can pass the ball thoughtfully if afforded time and space.
Much interest will surround Kenna's team selection and who will occupy the central midfield berths. Lester and Foley, wholehearted against the Candystripes, may possess the exact combative qualities required for this particular mission, but Alan Murphy is also available after being cup tied.
How a team deals with injuries and suspensions is crucial, and the recent evidence augurs well for Galway. Only a few short weeks ago Kenna's options were severely restricted, but with Murphy, Jorgensen, and Iarlaith Daveron joining, flesh has been put on the bones of the squad.
Those charged with rescuing Galway's year are primed for the conclusion of a curious campaign. Kenna and Ian Foster have dealt admirably with the uncertainty, guiding Galway impressively thus far. Now United must embrace the increased expectancy that inevitably follows a couple of gritty displays. Will the students be outfoxed?
•Galway United u-20 side, which is being managed by Billy Clery, is holding open trials on August 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, and 16 at the HP Complex in Ballybrit. Tuesday and Thursday training at 6.15pm; Saturday at 10.45am.