Galway United make a welcome return to SSE Airtricity League action when hosting first division favourites Shelbourne at Eamonn Deacy Park tomorrow (7.45pm ).
A bumper crowd is expected for the game with the ‘Reclaim the Dyke’ march by Galway United supporters attracting interest ahead of the seasonal opener for Alan Murphy’s young outfit.
While 2018 brought plenty of pain and defeats, Murphy, as passionate for the Galway United cause as ever, remains optimistic.
The addition of goalkeeper Kevin Horgan, Iarfhlaith Davoren, and Vinny Faherty, combined with the promise of Adam Rooney, Donal Higgins, and Colin Kelly, ensures Murphy believes his team is ready for the Shelbourne challenge.
“Absolutely, that is why we are all in football,” Murphy says. “It is for that challenge and sometimes that status of being the underdog, having it all to do with everything against you and that is probably the situation we are going to be in this Friday night.
Shelbourne coming to Eamonn Deacy Park are raging hot favourites to win the league, he says.
"They have blown budgets out of the sky in terms of what we would aspire to this season. The players they have brought in are premier division players, but that is for our guys to stand up and now be counted in the faith I've shown in them and in their ability.
“I'm happy with what I have, and while it is a huge challenge for them, we might just surprise a few people on Friday in terms of where we are and the performance we will be able to give.”
It has been a hectic couple of months for Murphy, who has constructed a squad with a vastly reduced budget compared to previous campaigns.
“We've had a hugely beneficial and positive pre-season in terms of the training and the way the players have applied themselves,” Murphy remarks about the Project DNA approach that he is spearheading.
“It isn't going to be easy. We will have players with barely, if any, League of Ireland experience, so they have to get that. There could be a lot of young players at times, but Galway United needs to start somewhere. This is where it needs to start.
“Even taking the budget aside the change that has really come in the club has been a huge part in terms of Project DNA.
Murphy says United need to identify good players who want to play for the club.
"Whether they are young players or senior players, that is another question, but the huge part is identifying proper character, proper people that care about themselves and their own identity and values.
“It has been a huge challenge and it will be a huge challenge all season. I've a huge appetite for this and I think I've shown that in the last few months since the season finished. It is a work in progress, but at this moment I'm delighted with the group of players that have been signed.”
For much of the past two decades Ballinrobe native Murphy has served the Galway United and League of Ireland cause with admirable determination. The upcoming weeks and months promise to be interesting as an emerging collection of young footballers from the locality seek to make their mark on the national stage.