The woeful weather ensured Galway United’s SSE Airtricity League first division opener was postponed last Friday, but Alan Murphy’s team return to competitive action against Shamrock Rovers II at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday (3pm ).
Despite the sterling efforts of Eamonn Deacy Park groundsman Noel Connolly, United’s game with Athlone Town was cancelled, ensuring the clash with Rovers will be the Tribesmen’s first competitive match in 161 days.
The September 21, 2019 draw with Athlone was United’s most recent outing, but significant planning has taken place in the intervening months. Ultimately a strong squad has been assembled by Murphy, who is keen to guide United into what promises to be a hotly contested promotion race.
A youthful Rovers outfit produced a gutsy performance at City Calling Stadium, but Aidan Price’s charges still suffered a defeat in the midlands. The Rovers squad featured several exciting and promising young footballers, so United must treat them with care and respect.
“There has been a lot of talk about Shamrock Rovers II and Limerick and people have aired their opinions about it," says Murphy, on the eve of the new campaign. ”The only opinion I voiced all along was that we needed football back.”
Ten teams will feature in the first division with some of the fancied clubs, such as Longford and Drogheda United, registering victories on the opening weekend.
“We needed a set of fixtures, we probably didn't need the whole distraction of playing four weeks in a row, then skipping a week,” Murphy added about the decision to opt for 10 teams following a protracted saga.
“I don't think that gives the respect the league deserves. A lot of work has gone in from all of the teams in the first division. It isn't only ourselves. We just want football back, we want to get stuck in playing games, to get that competitive edge back.”
That is precisely what United will do with two tricky away assignments against Rovers II and Wexford FC imminent. Considering the strength of Longford and Drogheda, Murphy will want to accumulate points quickly.
It is why the United boss is encouraged that a decent backroom staff, including former players Colin Fortune and Derek O’Brien, alongside Kevin Murphy and Danny Broderick has been assembled. “These are only baby steps we are taking, we aren't trying to reinvent the wheel or change things dramatically,” Murphy says. “We are trying to learn and improve on last year.”
So many youngsters acquired League of Ireland experience in 2019, with talented teenager Donal Higgins expected to prosper in a revamped United squad. Joshua Smith, Shane Duggan, Dean O’Halloran, Timmy Molloy, Mikey Plaice, and Enda Curran bring plenty of craft, which should combine nicely alongside those who finished 2019 impressively. Jack Lynch, Killian Brouder, and Stephen Christopher all made valuable contributions following their respective summer arrivals last year.
With Kevin Horgan, Marc Ludden, Maurice Nugent, Conor Barry, Conor Melody, and Vinny Faherty already established figures, Murphy is not short on options.
Finding the right blend is the mission United must accomplish as a revealing March awaits with hope and expectation attached.