Galway United are primed for one of their biggest games in 14 years when they take on Waterford FC in the SSE Airtricity League first division play-off final in the Markets Field, Limerick tomorrow (7.45pm ).
In the years proceeding their famous win against UCD in the Belfield Bowl in 2008 that staved off relegation, the club has had enjoyed some and endured other big occasions.
There was the play-off triumph in 2014 as Galway FC, an EA Sports Cup Final loss in 2015, and a couple of near misses in the play-offs. However, this year’s tilt at the play-offs is crucial for the club’s progression.
An emphatic 3-0 semi-final second-leg win over Longford Town in Eamon Deacy Park on Sunday has propelled United to this stage. The manner of the win should breed confidence that a third victory this year against a fancied Waterford side is a real possibility.
That performance and result pleased United manager John Caulfield, who is eager to see his side reassert the standards set earlier in the season.
"In some of the recent big games, we haven’t done as well as we could have. I thought we were good right from the start and we deserved to win."
Over the two legs, a squad effort that was needed, and four of the five goals against Longford came from the bench.
"You need your squad. We needed that impact and thankfully the lads made a massive difference when they came in. They’re a brilliant bunch, they really want to do well for Galway United and there is so much pride there.’
Citing the impact of goal scorers Mikie Rowe and Rob Manley off the bench, Caulfield also acknowledged the improvements shown by Ed McCarthy, who was tireless on Sunday, and Adam Thomas who timed his best game in a United shirt impeccably.
Stephen Walsh has been peerless all season and caused trademark havoc in attack. Conor McCormack barked and bit in midfield and was ably assisted by David Hurley, who was everywhere. Killian Brouder, Conor O’ Keefe and Conor Kearns kept Longford at bay at the back and provided the foundation for victory.
However, an even higher level of performance will be needed to topple Waterford.
"It is a different game to Longford, they have different strengths. No one is under any doubt that we need to better on Friday.
"They [Waterford' have a strong English influence, they have a lot of experience," Caulfield says, and United will need reinforcement from their travelling support.
"In all sports there is no doubt that positive energy coming from the stands gives players a phenomenal lift. If we can have a huge travelling support really behind the team from the start, you can’t underestimate that."
The club, keen to play its part in mobilising its support, has made return bus tickets available for €5.
Football fans in Galway would do well to answer this call as history may be only a short jaunt down the M18 away.To achieve this, United will need the travelling support.
•Galway United Friends Co-op is running buses to Friday's first division play-off final at the Markets Field, leaving The Connacht Hotel, Dublin Road, Galway at 5pm and picking up at The Maldron Hotel, Oranmore. To book a seat, contact Stephen Connolly (085 )2206645 or Ronan Coleman (087 ) 6972823.