An intriguing SSE Airtricity League first division season continues tomorrow with Galway United hosting Wexford FC at Eamonn Deacy Park (7.45pm ).
United and Wexford both enjoyed encouraging FAI Cup wins over Bluebell United and Sligo Rovers respectively on Sunday. Wexford demonstrated admirable resilience to defeat Sligo at the Showgrounds with United manager John Caulfield fully aware of the potential in Ian Ryan's squad.
"We have seen that with Wexford earlier on the season, they drew in Terryland," Caulfield says about Wexford's ability. "Ian Ryan has assembled some fantastic players. This season they have really been in form over the last number of weeks. Sligo, after having such a massive win in Europe, for Wexford to go to the Showgrounds, to knock them out of the cup, it was an awful blow to Sligo Rovers."
Following Wexford's triumph in Sligo, Caulfield is expecting a stern assignment. "It was a massive win for Wexford," he adds. "To be fair they were good value for it, they were one down. Sometimes playing in Sligo teams might give up, but they equalised, and they went on to win the game in extra-time.
"It just shows even with Sligo being a full-time team, that Wexford's fitness levels are good. We have noticed this watching them play, that their fitness levels are incredibly high, they are playing really well with exciting football.
"So it will be a tough game for us, but we are really looking forward to it. We are back at home after a month, we are looking forward to a big crowd, a passionate and noisy crowd from the start. Hopefully we can give a top performance."
At Tolka Park, United were too slick for Bluebell United cruising to an emphatic 7-0 success to set up a second round meeting with UCD. David Hurley, Stephen Walsh (2 ), Rob Manley, David Tarmey, and Francely Lomboto (2 ) all scored for United with Caulfield satisfied with the performance.
“I’ve been in amateur football so I know the way teams will come out to try to play," Caulfield says. “In fairness to Bluebell they worked really hard and Mickey Quinn was fantastic in goal for them.
“For us it was about getting out there and keeping the intensity high. We scored seven, and but for Quinn we might have scored more. They tried their hearts out. For us it was just about being professional and getting through to the next round.”
Republic of Ireland schools international Tarmey struck his first senior goal for United. “I have a lot of time for him," Caulfield says. "He has been in training with the first team and we feel he has huge potential. But he’s only a young kid and we’ve to mind him.
“Evan O’Connor came on as well while Oisin O’Reilly had his second game. We gave game time to Adam Thomas and Bastien Hery also. Overall, it was pleasing that a lot of fellows got minutes.
“I know we controlled the game, controlled the ball, but it's better for lads to get game time rather than in training, so we’re happy with that.”
Entering a crucial phase of the campaign, Caulfield is encouraged with United's recent acquisitions. “We’ve brought in a number of players who have been in our league," he replies.
“Obviously, Rob Manley, James Finnerty, Adam Thomas who has come in from New Zealand having been with Shelbourne, while Bastien [Hery] also knows the league.
“So, we’ve brought in players who are accustomed to the league which is important at this stage. They are also good personalities, who we feel have settled in very, very quickly.
“I know it’s early days for Bastien and Adam, but they are good lads. We now need to keep the pressure on. There is probably more competition for places in the team.
“It is getting to the stage of the season when you are in the run-in and you need to make sure that every week you put in a high performance. If you do, you’ve a chance. If you don’t, you don’t.”