Galway United's premier division survival hopes continue tomorrow when they host St Patrick’s Athletic in a vital SSE Airtricity League encounter at Eamonn Deacy Park (7.45pm ).
Last Saturday’s absorbing 3-3 draw against Bray Wanderers was packed with incident, but United fell back into the bottom three following Sligo Rovers' triumph over Bohemians later that evening.
It has been that type of dramatic campaign for United, who were denied a win in the Carlisle Grounds when Bray custodian Peter Cherrie saved a last-gasp Ronan Murray penalty. Earlier in the contest Murray had converted a spot-kick, while Kevin Devaney contributed two fine goals during a gripping game.
“Mad is the word," United manager Shane Keegan says. "Going up we probably would have been reasonably happy with a point. With seven minutes left, 3-2 down, you definitely would have taken a point. When you come away from a game that is the way you have to look back on it when you're trying to make sense of it in your head.
“It is easy to get deflated and get down about the fact that you miss a late penalty and that you could have taken all three points. If I'm being perfectly honest, a draw was probably a fair result, and it is a result we would have taken going up, so there were plenty of positives to take from it.”
After the Bray clash finished, Keegan went to watch St Patrick’s Athletic divide the spoils with Limerick FC in a similarly eventful tussle at Richmond Park. “There is no point in saying otherwise, it would break your heart the way it can go,” Keegan admits.
“I headed away in the morning, a rollercoaster of emotions in Bray, and then I went to Inchicore and you are working the permutations in your head as the score keeps changing there. I eventually got back in the car to head across to Galway and you're keeping an eye on things, listening to updates on the radio, then for Vinny Faherty to get the goal and Keith Ward to be sent off for Bohemians.
“I'd be lying if I said otherwise, it leaves you a bit deflated. I was probably a bit flat on Sunday, but really, no more than the players, you can only let that affect you for a very short period of time because you have to get back on the horse, to be positive, to go about doing the right things again.
“Every week it keeps swinging. Inevitably, one of the teams around us picks up a big win every week, so you just have to allow for that. I think it will be the same over the remaining three weeks. There will always be two of the five teams who will pull off a big result.”
Keegan is adamant basement boys and Drogheda United, already relegated, could still cause a surprise or two in the closing weeks of the season.
“The surprise result could come that way because Drogheda's next three are against three teams down there with us, so they will play a huge role,” Keegan says. “You would imagine those three teams are banking on wins in those, but who is to say that Drogheda will win or draw some of those games to take points off them? They have Limerick, Finn Harps, followed by Sligo, so they are going to have a huge bearing on us.
“Obviously a win would be fantastic on Friday for us, but you could draw with Pat's, and if Sligo were beaten, you are back out of the relegation zone again.”
The United players are firmly focused on the Pat’s challenge and Keegan is hoping another large crowd will gather at the Dyke Road venue.
“The main thing is you start to get desperate when it isn't in your own hands, but it is,” Keegan says. “Simple as that, and it is all you can ask for really.
"I can't emphasise the support enough. We weren't terrible in Bray, to get a point against a team doing well over the course of the season, but we weren't at it as we had been in the two previous games. I think that is down to the crowds we had. It is impossible not to find that extra 10 or 20 per cent in your legs and motivational levels when you have 1,500 people roaring you on."
Keegan says the home crowd can significantly increase United's chances.
“There was a fantastic atmosphere at the Sligo game. Our chances of picking up three points on Friday will increase by about 10 per cent if there is more than 2,000 people at the game. The lads 48 hours later were still talking about what a great night it was with that support.
“We need to get the bodies in. While the number was smaller in Bray, when we were down, our support was loud and constantly encouraging. That does help, especially when trying to claw a goal back. There is massive potential in Galway United.”