Despite another brave and battling performance Galway United still suffered relegation from the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division following last Friday’s 4-3 defeat against Dundalk at Eamonn Deacy Park.
It was a bitterly disappointing end to a campaign in which United played open and attractive football, but the grim reality is that the Tribesmen drop out of the top flight.
Manager Shane Keegan gave an honest post match assessment. “That was us, for better or worse, our strengths, our weaknesses, it was a perfect microcosm of our season really in terms of the good stuff, the bad stuff, the refereeing,” Keegan reflected.
“The good stuff has me bamboozoled about how this happened, the bad stuff is the reason it has ended up happening us. The character shown in the second half and shown all season is the reason why I think the club is so well positioned to instantly bounce back. It has to and it can, it should and it will. Heartbreaking.”
Keegan acknowledged that United were not sufficiently good enough throughout the year, which is ultimately the reason a rebuilding process must now be undertaken once more. “A lot of the same issues were probably there from day one that were there at the end of the season,” Keegan admits.
“We still had not won games towards the end of the season because we failed to take chances. It is not like we were really crap at the beginning of the season and then were brilliant. You look at our very first performance, we played some great football, played Drogheda off the park, but still managed to come out of it with zero points.
“Even in the first third of the season good football was there, but so was the inability to turn good performances into points. That is essentially what has haunted us all year even though we started to win a few more games. I still do not think at any stage did we manage to learn to turn performances into the points they justified.”
Keegan hopes to be in charge of United in 2018 and feels that significant potential exists in the west. “I am looking forward to hopefully having the opportunity to get them back up, but I have got no guarantees.
“We will see what happens over the next couple of days. Excluding the under 19s, we have 19 players over the age of 19 signed. I think we will lose somewhere between six and eight of those.
“That is what happens in soccer and it happens to pretty much any club that goes down. Premier Division clubs will come in for a lot of them and I think ambition partly and finance party will dictate that we lose that amount of players.
“You will see some of them playing in Europe next year, they have been that good. It is hard to believe they have been that good in a team that has gone down. Honestly, all I can do is wish those players the best of luck.”
With Colm Horgan, Stephen Folan, Kevin Devaney, Rory Hale, Gavan Holohan, and Ronan Murray expected to move elsewhere, Keegan is adamant that United can stitch a solid squad together.
“If I am in charge and we can hold on to 11, 12, 13 of that current squad, I have been in the First Division for four years, I know what the First Division is all about, I know the standard of player required to win the First Division,” Keegan states.
“What we would be left with would not be far off that standard required. You need to be clever, find a few Eoin McCormacks that could be plucked from junior football or be creative in some way, shape, or form. I am in no way trying to put a positive slant on this, there is no way of putting a positive slant.
“Conor Melody, Alex Byrne, Gary Shanahan, Paul Sinnott, I honestly feel having been in the First Division for four years they are players that can backbone a team by playing 25 to 30 games in a season and being really, really successful.
“That is definitely the case for the younger fellas. I think Aaron Conway could be one of the best defenders in the League of Ireland First Division next year. You throw him and Ronan Manning in with some of what we would hope to hold on to and I think you are reasonably well positioned.”