Eager to respond following an opening evening SSE Airtricity League first division loss to Shelbourne, Galway United will be keen to deliver a victory at Ferrycarrig Park on Friday against Wexford FC (7.45pm )
Alan Murphy’s youthful team contributed so much to a lively occasion on the banks of the Corrib, netting two remarkable first-half strikes before Shelbourne finished strongly to secure the spoils.
While the official attendance was clocked at 2,174, seasoned Eamonn Deacy Park observers reckoned the actual figure was several hundred more, underlining the successful ‘Reclaim the Dyke’ march which preceded the game.
When the action commenced, talented teenager Colin Kelly and Vinny Faherty struck memorable goals for United, who were eventually outfoxed by the expensively assembled visitors.
Murphy had United diligently prepared, but the United manager acknowledged a significant opportunity to record a shock win had been missed.
“My initial reaction is that I'm hugely disappointed for the group of players that I have,” Murphy said.
“Entertainment wise, spectacle wise, the first game of the season I thought it was a great event. The people of Galway got behind us and I thought our players to a body gave their all - the minimum requirement I'm asking. They cared, they bought into the plan and executed the plan to a large degree. Again in the harsh light of day Shelbourne have a lot of experienced players and a lot of depth of quality that you could see coming on.”
The injury enforced departure of Maurice Nugent, who had been solid in a holding midfield role, hurt United deeply according to Murphy.
“We have what we have and probably Maurice Nugent going off injured was pivotal,” Murphy says. “I thought he was excellent until he went off injured. Then we were a little bit disjointed and a little bit of pressure comes on. For the first game I have to take huge positives from that.
“Do I think it was absolutely chalk and cheese comparing 2019 to 2018? I do. I think it was exactly what I promised - commitment, application, young players that wanted it and they performed on the night.”
That was most certainly the case, and Murphy is expecting another tricky assignment in the south ast as Wexford were also defeated by Athlone Town.
“It is a difficult one, they will be fighting for their lives,” Murphy states.
“It didn't go that well for them against Athlone. Like ourselves they will want to pick up their first win. Nothing is got easy in Wexford and we will be preparing exactly the same as we prepared for Shels. We will put huge emphasis on researching the other team and preparing the boys well for it.
“That is a basic requirement for this level of football, the other team that the work is done on them. We will look at ourselves, we will have a plan, we will go again and we will try to execute for a little bit longer.
“I have to come out of it with my head held high from where we have come in the off season in the 150 plus days we have been off. The change in identity at the club and the character of player we want now at the club.
“That is fair to say. I think we will have loads of nights like this where people can be really, really proud. That is a great starting point.”
Kelly’s delightful goal drew praise from Murphy, who managed the youngster at U17 level last year.
“It was nothing that I didn't know he can do or anything like that,” Murphy says. “It is great for the young lad, you'd call it his first game really. Last season was dipping his toe in it, but this season there is pressure on in terms of playing and being in the first XI. I thought he worked really hard and I thought he learned a lot about League of Ireland football - the fitness element, the harsh reality of what can happen.”
Murphy was also impressed with the efforts of Wilson Waweru. “I have to look at my young players, I thought Wilson Waweru was excellent until he came off.”
“We had seven under the age of 21 and eight under 23 against a team with a monster budget from Shelbourne that has players who are the envy of the first division. For large parts of the game, I thought we were unbelievably comfortable.”
How Shelbourne ruthlessly punished lapses in concentration was a reminder of how difficult life can be in the first division, but United make the long journey to Wexford fully aware that a victory is needed.