It has been a difficult couple of weeks both on and off the field for Galway United, but tomorrow’s encounter with Shamrock Rovers at Terryland Park offers an ideal opportunity to deliver an improved performance.
Nudged from the FAI Cup by Longford Town and battered by Bohemians, the last fortnight has brought plenty of woe, United now face a Hoops team anxious to remain in the title race.
Rovers, who suffered an agonising result themselves last Saturday when squandering a two-goal lead against Dundalk, will not be the most accommodating opponents. There was sufficient craft in their first-half display to suggest Galway will need to produce a display packed with enthusiasm. Stephen Rice’s bustle was complemented nicely by the sweet passing skills of Stephen Bradley, and it will be interesting to see whether Michael O’Neill opts for this pairing again.
O’Neill’s squad gained in strength during the July transfer window, and with Paddy Kavanagh recruited, Rovers have several wide options with Tadhg Purcell and the clever Seanie O’Connor key contributors in the Hoops’ 15-match unbeaten sequence.
Rovers’ last visit to the Dyke Road venue saw the prolific Gary Twigg pinch a hat-trick and the Scot remains a crisp finisher so it is imperative that Rovers are not allowed to fashion many chances.
If openings are created, Twigg and Dessie Baker have the ability to convert, so much will hinge on how Sean Kelly and John Russell fare in the centre of the park. Rice will scamper about the pitch craving involvement, but if Galway can get Russell on the ball, particularly in the Rovers’ half, then the Hoops’ defence can be threatened.
Still Rovers are strong there too, and O’Neill was even able to leave out polished goalkeeper Barry Murphy, as Northern Ireland international Alan Mannus was included for the Dundalk draw.
O’Neill is intent on constructing a panel of players capable of bringing the Championship to Tallaght.
"We have competition for places here and have brought in an international goalkeepe. We are trying to build a squad that will challenge for the league title and players have to accept there will be competition for places. If they want to be at a top club they will accept that; if not, they aren't at the right club. We aren't looking at it as if we have to catch Bohemians, we are looking at building a team here that can challenge, and go on one day to win the league.”
With each passing week Ian Foster’s achievement in gathering 28 points already becomes more apparent. That Galway have amassed such a total at this stage of the campaign is noteworthy, and from here on in every fixture carries deep importance if a testing relegation scrap is to be avoided.
Following a severe spell sprinkled with harsh defeats Mervue United finally claimed a draw when holding Wexford Youths last Friday.
Mervue were solid throughout, and will now look forward to Athlone Town’s visit to the west on Saturday.
Though defeated by Sporting Fingal on Saturday, the midlanders drew their previous three matches, and former Athenry striker Johnny Mernagh has been a lively performer for Athlone.
Having taken a merited share of the spoils from the Wexford game, Mervue will trust that Damien O’Rourke, Nigel Keady, Kenny Farrell, Nicky Curran, and Mark Ludden can be similarly effective when Athlone come to town.