Eamonn Deacy Park provides the backdrop for a vital SSE Airtricity League first division encounter between Galway United and Athlone Town tomorrow evening (7.45pm ).
It has been a disappointing opening to the season for United, who will be eager to deliver an improved performance on home turf against an Athlone side making impressive progress under Adrian Carberry’s stewardship.
Athlone demonstrated their considerable potential when defeating United at Lissywollen in the second match of the campaign so John Caulfield is fully aware of the midlanders’ threat.
“We are really looking forward to the game,” the United manager says. “Some of the injury situations have cleared up, obviously Athlone started the season incredibly well. They won a good few of their early matches, this league is very competitive.
“At the start they blazed a trail to open a gap early on. This league has shown that week in, week out anyone can beat anyone else. For us it is about trying to see can we get a win under our belt, to try to get some consistency into our game.”
The fortnight break from competitive action afforded players and management an opportunity to reflect and plan for the remainder of the year.
“I have said from the very start of the season that it was going to be very competitive with Cork and Shelbourne relegated, and a lot of other teams invested,” Caulfield says.
“Covid, with the no crowds, it has certainly made home advantage not as big as you'd imagine when you'd have crowds. It has given all the clubs time to reflect and for ourselves, we had a lot of new players coming in. You could argue there were a number of games we were unlucky in, but at the same time you make your own luck.
“Ultimately after the first 10 games we are mid table and we need to be in a higher position than that. There has been a lot of good stuff, but the break gives you time to reflect and maybe make a few switches around with the team. At the same time it is good for the players, who have all been back in since February. They have all worked hard.
“I keep saying they are a good group and sometimes a couple of players just haven't performed to their best.
“Hopefully now that we have all got a break, they have come back in, and we are looking forward to the Athlone game. It is another massive challenge, Athlone are a very good side. We feel that after the break we need to get our performances right on the pitch.”
Caulfield is delighted that a small number of spectators will be permitted to attend the Athlone fixture. “I have been up here since last August, we got a run to the play/offs, we had a couple of games where we had 200,” Caulfield recalls.
“Thankfully we will have 100 back, hopefully it is the start of it over the next number of months, that we will get crowds back. I'd love to be walking into Terryland with no restrictions, you could have a couple of thousand people at a match.
“Hopefully that day is coming soon. It has been frustrating, no matter what anyone says playing without crowds is a disaster. From a management point of view and I have met thousands of people since I moved up to Galway, I'd love to be in Terryland meeting our own supporters and hearing that roar and noise coming from the stands.
“I think it would help our team. The sooner it happens the better. At least Friday is a step in the right direction.”