Tough league start for United

John Caulfield's team travel to Turners Cross on Friday evening

A demanding SSE Airtricity League first division test looms for Galway United, who face Cork City at Turners Cross tomorrow (7.45pm ).

John Caulfield’s side face a rapidly improving Cork outfit that enjoyed a hugely encouraging opening evening success over Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds.

“With the league starting last Friday, it was unfortunate that we were the odd team out in the first division, but we look forward to the opening game of the season for us,” Caulfield says ahead of the interesting encounter.

“We are going to Cork City, who had a fantastic 6-0 win, one of the favourites for the division, but at the same time we are really looking forward to going down playing in front of a full house in Cork.”

The manner in which Colin Healy’s City delivered against Bray impressed Caulfield. “They have been absolutely flying it, they have brought in a lot of new signings,” Caulfield says. “They have invested to go all out to win the division, Colin is doing a very good job there. I certainly know from our point of view that going to Cork with a full house how difficult it is, but at the same time it is our first game.

“We have been working very hard in pre-season, we are looking forward to going down there. We know how difficult it will be, we know we are going to have to be at our best to have a chance of getting a result. We know if we are not, we won't, but there is always a lot of excitement when you are going to play your first match of the season.”

United played a number of friendlies against top flight opposition such as Finn Harps, Shelbourne, St Patrick’s Athletic, Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, and Bohemians. “We got those type of games because we knew we were going to have to work hard, we knew that in lots of the games the opposition teams, particularly Shamrock Rovers, were going to have a lot of the ball,” Caulfield says.

“So they were great workouts for us. When you are playing opposition like that not only does it help with your fitness, it helps with your team style and work rate. We have introduced a lot of new players, but still at the same time we have the backbone of a strong number of the lads from last year. Overall we are happy.

“Compared to the premier division where everyone assumes Shamrock Rovers will run away with it, the first division looks like the league to follow this year. It will be very exciting because you have so many big clubs down there.”

Is the 2022 first division the strongest ever? “It seems that way, certainly historically I don't remember having Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Galway all in the first division,” Caulfield replies.

“They are all clubs that have a big home following when they are going well. The fact that there is only one automatic spot is always very difficult. From our point of view we have to look after ourselves, we know how difficult it will be. We got beaten in the play-offs last year, we have really worked hard in pre-season, and we are looking at testing ourselves against those clubs.

“Hopefully over the course of the season we can be very strong and we can be very good. Time will tell, but certainly there is no more difficult game than going to Cork in your first game.”

That matches carrying relevance and points are now imminent means Caulfield, ever the competitor, remains enthusiastic. “In pre-season we played all premier division clubs, still at the same time you cannot wait until you get to the start of the season when the real action happens,” he says.

“The nerves build up, you are putting all of your energy into getting ready for that. The way we look at it is that you can see in the last two weeks, the closer we are getting to the start of the season, the more excitement, the anxiety, that nervous energy is just fantastic.

“While pre-seasons are great when they are there, everyone looks forward to getting into the real action.”

For United that starts down by the Lee on Friday evening.

**Listen to the full interview with Galway United manager John Caulfield on this week's 'Cian on Sport' podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.


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