Lack of creativity and defensive indecisiveness cost Galway United on their return to the big time

Galway United’s return to the Premier Division proved bitter-sweet as they suffered a 1-0 loss to St. Patrick’s Athletic in horrible conditions at Eamonn Deacy Park last Friday night. Although there were positives, United’s midfield lacked invention and failed to create chances of any quality.

St. Pats finished third in the league last year and are reigning FAI Cup champions – so the fact Galway United went toe-to-toe with them and will be kicking themselves that they left without a result, underlines the ambitions of this Galway squad, and shows what they are capable of this season.

However, despite sustained spells of possession, John Caulfield’s side failed to provide enough threat by creating concrete chances to trouble their opponents.

Caulfield elected to go with a midfield trio of captain Conor McCormack, Vincent Bordon, and David Hurley. Hurley, who was instrumental to United’s success last season, adopted a deeper role with Bordon given the license to get forward and make late, darting runs into the box. Whilst Bordon was a magnet for goals in the first half of last season, his form took a dip towards the back end of the campaign. His inclusion in the starting eleven was a bit of a shock, especially considering how well Hurley and Aodh Dervin ran midfield operations in the latter stages of last season. The Tribesmen missed Dervin’s illusive dribbling and Hurley’s creativity further up the pitch.

You can understand why Caulfield went with a more physical midfield for his side’s first game back in the big time, but the gamble did not pay off. Hurley failed to get into dangerous positions where he could launch in his pin-point crosses or fire one of his thunderous left-foot strikes. It was possible last season for Hurley to drop deeper against weaker opposition, but United desperately need their number ten to get forward into positions he can penetrate and provide the cutting-edge attacking quality that he possesses. Borden’s total of 22 touches and 57% pass accuracy highlights his influence (or lack of it ) on proceedings.

St. Pats were structured and solid, maintaining a low block and looking to spring out on the counter and capitalise on mistakes. That is what will frustrate United the most; the FAI Cup champions created little on the night, but what they did create was all self-inflicted by the Tribesmen. The goal, which came in the third minute, was a culmination of defensive indecisiveness and panic. The Galway defence had every opportunity to clear it before Jamie Lennon volleyed home. Kian Leavy’s chance that kissed the post was a result of a poor pass by Galway goalie Brendan Clarke.

Referee, Eoin O’Shea was again the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons. His decision to send off Walsh for appealing the failure to award what was a clear penalty beggared belief, but such sums up the standard of refereeing that match-goers have become accustomed to seeing.

But there are positives United can take from their season opener; mainly, the impact of the substitutes. Al Amin Kazeem provided a direct threat with his pace and dribbling. His cameo will undoubtedly give Caulfield a selection headache for this week’s game at Dundalk, especially after Karl O’Sullivan’s shaky debut on the right flank. Patrick Hickey also impressed, imposing himself on the game with his tenacity and aerial threat. The Galway United manager has options, with players of different profiles in all positions.

A trip to Dundalk awaits United on Friday night in their first away day of the season. Fans will dream of the same outcome as that fairytale night at Eamonn Deacy Park in September of last year in the cup.

Does Caulfield stick with his guns, or are there changes abound?


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