Only seven league games remain for Galway United, ensuring significance is attached to each and every one as the search for survival enters a critical phase.
Galway, Cobh Ramblers, UCD, and Finn Harps are venturing into the final furlong with a drop of optimism, but results need to be delivered briskly.
Three positive performances on the spin have restored faith and belief to the Galway squad, but there is no disputing that some kind of dividend must be garnered at United Park tomorrow. Drogheda United might be relinquishing their league title, but Paul Doolin's panel is packed with experienced and decorated footballers.
Drogheda's recent string of victories suggests they are particularly anxious to conclude the campaign with a flourish. Monday's Setanta Cup triumph in Belfast over Cliftonville was achieved with a smooth performance as Eamon Zayed and Adam Hughes bagged the goals. Indeed Zayed has been in smashing form recently hitting four goals in the past three games and his potent mix of pace and power could trouble Galway's defence.
Adam Hughes, Shane Robinson, Paul Keegan, and Guy Bates have been other notable contributors for the Drogs who have outfoxed Galway twice in 2008. Both losses were of the narrow 1-0 variety so Drogheda will certainly afford Galway respect aware that Jeff Kenna's charges can compete with any outfit in the land when in the groove.
Again speculation will follow the make up of the Galway team. Last Friday Kenna resisted the temptation to make alterations to the starting XI which dismantled Bray Wanderers in the FAI Cup quarter final replay. Kenna was satisfied with the manner in which the players respected his policy as Alan Murphy and Iarlaith Daveron had to settle for places on a strengthened substitutes’ bench.
“I left the team as it was because we played so well on Tuesday. I am a firm believer that people in possession of shirts if they play well should stay in the team. Murphy and Iarlaith have been two of our better players, but they know the score and I don’t have a problem with that."
For the past couple of encounters Galway have employed an innovative system flooding the centre of the park with bodies and this has frustrated opponents. Ciaran Foley and John Lester bring the fortitude, while John Russell has supplied the flair and Kenna was suitably impressed by Galway's enterprise against Shamrock Rovers.
“Everybody knows their role, everybody worked very hard and we passed the ball around well so there was no need to change it. When you play with a diamond in midfield the opposition have space on the wings, but I think our full backs are good full backs and they can defend one v one, and you are looking for the nearest midfielder to go out and give some support. Inevitably against a good team they will get the ball out wide so you have to adjust to that and hope they don’t catch you out."
The Cobh Ramblers reversal was worrying, but the cup clashes with Bray and the Hoops’ tussle offered proof that Galway have the wherewithal to preserve their top flight status. Remaining cool and composed in these tension filled weeks is necessary, and Kenna certainly reckons that the drop can be avoided.
“Since Cobh, we have had some meetings and done a lot of soul searching, myself included, and the response is exactly as I would have expected it to be. The last three games have been particularly pleasing. The work rate and endeavour is there, the passion for the game is there, and that is all I can ask from the players.
“We are playing some good football and creating chances, and as long as we keep doing that we will win more games than we lose."
•Galway United Supporters’ Trust is running a bus to United Park, departing Fibber Magees, Eyre Square at 2.30pm. To book a seat contct Ronan 087-6972823.