Galway United interim manager Gary O’Connor is hopeful the Tribesmen can deliver an improved performance against Shelbourne in tomorrow's SSE Airtricity League first division encounter at Eamonn Deacy Park (7.45pm ).
Before the mid season break United drew two and lost three of their last five matches, so tomorrow’s tussle with Shelbourne carries huge significance. O’Connor, assistant under Shane Keegan, who recently left the club by mutual consent, is boosted by the availability of goalkeeper Tadhg Ryan, Robbie Williams, and Danny Furlong following injury.
O’Connor now wants to ensure United players are primed for the Shelbourne match if a top four finish is to be attained in order to secure a promotion play/off berth at the end of the campaign.
“The focus is on Friday's game against Shelbourne,” O’Connor says. “We came back training on Monday morning and the lads worked really hard. We gave them a synopsis of what has happened [in the club] and what is going on with the investors. They got stuck into it and were straight back to work.”
Having suffered a 2-0 loss in April at Tolka Park when Shelbourne punished the visitors, the players realise the importance of the game, O’Connor says.
“The game away to Shelbourne was a big, big let down and the lads will be determined to put that right. They were very disappointed that night and we had a chat that night, we were in the dressing room for 40 minutes after discussing things and we will remind them of that.
“We let ourselves down that night. I'm sure they won't want that again next Friday night, and I think the break will have done them good. The lads will be re-energised and they are looking forward to trying to get us back on track. I know it has been poor in the last five games, but we are not too far away.
“The break came at the right time, the lads got a few days away. We had good sessions early in the week, they are ready to go again, we worked on a fair bit of fitness on Monday and they were right at it until the end. They are glad to be back.”
The return to fitness of several key players is a significant boost, according O’Connor, who enjoyed a successful playing career locally with Mervue United.
“It was one thing after another,” O’Connor says about United’s issues at the start of this month. “The night in Wexford we had 12 senior players including Conor Layng fit and we had three U19s who were added that week.
“We only had 15 players, including our reserve goalkeeper - we couldn't name a full bench. We had four U19s and a reserve keeper on the bench. There was a glut of injuries on top of not playing well, it was a bad combination.:
And of newly departed coach Shane Keegan, O'Connor says it broke his heart.
“For me he was brilliant. He gave me a chance as assistant manager, and I owe him that. The man worked so hard, not only with the team, but away from the pitch.
“It broke my heart because he put his heart and soul into it. Every time we sat down to talk all he did was wonder how we could do this or that better.”