Ultimately Galway United’s SSE Airtricity League first division promotion bid was ended by Longford Town at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening.
The midlanders emerged worthy winners from the high-stakes battle, but despite the defeat it has been a remarkable finish to the campaign for John Caufield’s United team.
In Caulfield's dozen league matches in charge, United triumphed in eight, drew one, and lost three, providing significant hope for 2021.
“When we came in everyone was looking forward to next season, getting plans in place because nobody expected this,” Caulfield says.
“Then the lads went on an incredible run. You have to admire their attitude, late winners - it has been a phenomenal run.
"Of course we are disappointed, we were in a play-off final to get to the real game against the premier division team. We were close, but we weren't as good as we had been. When you don't perform in a knockout game, the chances are that you are going to lose.”
In recent days Caulfield has been busy meeting players in the squad, deciding who will be retained for next season.
“The lads have been outstanding, fellas are gutted and very disappointed,” Caulfield admits. “Some probably feel they have played their last game for the club.
“In the new squad for next year a lot of the lads will be there, but of course there will be new players. When you come to the end of the season with a group, they are realistic to know that the group is going to split up and we must build a stronger team for next year.
"They are bitterly disappointed, but 11 weeks ago they were nowhere. They have given everything for the club and I admire that about them. While they are disappointed and we are all disappointed, it probably was a night where we just didn't deserve to win.”
On Monday the highly regarded Moycullen native Vinny Faherty, who had five spells with United in 13 years, announced his retirement from the League of Ireland game.
Faherty, a loyal and respected figure in the west, will be sorely missed, and can reflect with real pride on a distinguished career.
In the closing stages in the Belfield encounter Faherty contributed as United attempted to launch a daring last-gasp comeback mission.
“Vinny has had a fantastic career,” Caulfield says. “I would’ve followed and respected him as a player throughout his career. He was a real pleasure to deal with when I took over at the club.
“He’s a phenomenal person, who always had a brilliant attitude in training. Since I’ve come to the club, he’s always been a great support to myself, and a great support to the group also.”
The manner in which Faherty used his experience to try to assist emerging players pleased Caulfield also.
“Vinny has been a tremendous help over a short period and I really appreciated the positive influence he had over the group over the last months,” Caulfield adds.
“Sometimes when a player isn’t playing every week, they can react differently, but Vinny was a thorough professional right until the end.
“Vinny is an absolute gentleman and I’d like to thank him and wish him well in the future.”