Galway United make the long journey to Ballybofey for an SSE Aitricity League first division encounter against promotion chasing Finn Harps.
Three matches remain in the season for United, who exited the FAI Cup at second round stage when losing to top flight Bohemians at Eamonn Deacy Park last Friday. Despite a much improved United display, the Gypsies advanced to the cup quarter-final while United were left to reflect a string of controversial decisions in the second period.
While Bohemians were certainly the more able team, there was little wrong with United’s attitude and application, offering manager Alan Murphy some encouragement.
“The result is disappointing obviously, but I'm in a better place than I was last week," he says, comparing the defeat to the humbling by Longford Town in the league seven days previously. "This group of players have me in that better place.”
“The performance levels went up somewhat. Yes, we didn't win, but I would say people leaving Eamonn Deacy Park aren't on our backs as much. We gave a little bit back, showed that we do care, we worked hard. It is disappointing, but it is better.”
United leaked an early goal against Keith Long’s outfit, but remained competitive throughout the match. “After last week it was always going to be a difficult one with Bohs on a crest of a wave. They are scoring goals against teams for fun,” Murphy remarked.
“The last thing you want is to be 1-0 down after six minutes. I thought we got our set-up right and it was unfortunate we didn't stay at nil all. Even though we were one down, it gave us a platform and a little bit of confidence that they weren't able to hurt us as much.
“ Just speaking to Keith Long during the game, I know they went two nil up and when their manager turns around to you and has a flippant, not a smart remark, just a general 'it was never a free'. It is easy to say when we were two nil down, but it was that farcical at times to be honest.”
Source of optimism
Murphy acknowledges it has been a demoralising campaign for United, but believes the emergence of some promising local talent offers a source of optimism.
“The words I would use are average, mediocre, below average at times for the group of players we had,” Murphy admits.
“A very disappointing season for a team that were labelled favourites at the start which was probably unfair as well because where we were coming from I don't believe that. During my own reign as manager, I have learned a lot, a lot of positives, a lot of negatives.
“I suppose it would be nice and I'm not canvassing for the job, but I would like to think there has been a small bit of a change since I have taken over in terms of pressing the issue a little bit more. Maybe having Mark Herrick drives the team on, you could see that. We care where this club is going.
“Whether the season was good, bad or indifferent, we need to look at where we are now and how we can improve and how this club can make the next step. The next step has to be next year not being favourites for the league, but competing for it and making sure we are in the shake-up at the end of it. That is the only acceptable thing for Galway United next year.”