A busy weekend awaits Galway United, who face two crucial SSE Airtricity League first division fixtures against Cabinteely (Friday ) and Athlone Town (Monday ) at Eamonn Deacy Park.
Amazingly United have not played a league game at the Dyke Road venue in 46 weeks, but the upcoming encounters are loaded with importance.
In 322 days the only competitive clash featuring United on the banks of the Corrib was the EA Sports Cup triumph over Athlone four months ago.
Following disappointing away draws with Shamrock Rovers II and Wexford FC in March, United are completely aware that positive results must be recorded fast commencing when table-toppers Cabinteely visit the west.
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the attendance figure will be severely restricted with only 200 allowed, including players, coaching staff, and match day personnel allowed enter the ground.
Ultimately it means only 53 United season ticket holders will be at the contest, but the club has set up a live streaming facility for supporters.
Since returning to training, United have played a series of friendlies against Sligo Rovers, Cork City, Athenry, and Salthill Devon.
For a number of weeks United must plan without the injured Micheal Schlingermann, Enda Curran, and Conor Melody, while captain Shane Duggan is suspended for the Cabinteely contest.
Those setbacks have reduced Alan Murphy’s options, so United have given opportunities to emerging young players in the past month.
Last Saturday’s assignment with Sligo was a useful workout, but United were soundly beaten by the top-flight team with Ronan Coughlan bagging a brace of goals.
The previous week, though, United did overcome Cork City on neutral ground at the Market’s Field in Limerick which offers some encouragement ahead of the restart.
Another source of optimism is the capture of Shane Doherty, who returns to the club following an impressive stint in 2019.
Doherty enjoyed some very productive outings in the maroon shirt, and the New Jersey native is delighted to return to the west of Ireland.
"To be back in Galway is really a dream for me," Doherty says. "The people involved in the club are really special. To have the chance to represent Galway with the squad that's been built is such a privilege," he says.
"I'm very excited about the potential here this season. Last year was tough, but it was very important for the club to build on the foundations we set. The hard work of everyone at the club from last year is what allowed for this group to be aiming for promotion.”
However Doherty will be unavailable for the imminent clashes with Cabinteely and Athlone.
"Having to isolate is only a small inconvenience as I know how serious the world situation is,” Doherty says.
“I have family and friends here that I would never want to endanger. On top of that, I know how lucky I am to be back at this club, so doing the little things was never going to be an issue."