A good start is frequently half the battle in the League of Ireland, and Galway United venture to Richmond Park tomorrow hoping to commence the Sean Connor era with a victory.
Bizarrely, Galway are striving for a sixth straight win over St Patrick’s Athletic, but it will be a severely testing fixture as Pete Mahon has assembled a decent pool of players in Inchicore.
That two Galway regulars from last season, Shane Guthrie and Vinny Faherty, are now operating for the Saints, adds another layer of intrigue.
It would be misguided not to acknowledge that Connor has been forced to construct a squad with limited resources. Still the new Galway manager is reasonably satisfied with the calibre of footballer who has been attracted to Terryland Park. The signings of Rhys Meynell, Bobby Ryan, Stephen O’Donnell, Tom King, Jamie McKenzie, Thomas Heary, Karl Sheppard, James Creaney, Bee Ami, and Gary Curran provide concrete evidence of the hectic pre-season programme Connor has been forced to adopt since replacing Ian Foster.
Survival is the name of the game once more as Connor attempts to build structures and bring stability to the west.
"A successful season for Galway this season would be to remain in the premier division, and to make sure there is a good training base, and that there is a good structure behind the first team. The latter don't really impact on what people see, but if we can stay in the division, play some decent football, and be competitive, I am not just going to be satisfied with bottom two or bottom three either.”
Galway battled impressively for long stretches in their final warm up encounter with Hull City last Friday, and Connor took plenty of encouragement from the display.
"I was really, really pleased. We kept a good shape, and the one time we didn't have a shape they scored their goal. There was a bit of patience about the way we passed the ball, and we created chances.
“The one thing we would have liked would have been to take one of those chances. I think it was very positive overall. For 70 minutes until we started making the changes I thought we weren't outplayed or overawed.”
Connor is optimistic that the campaign should be interesting for all the teams eager to narrow the gap on Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.
"On the budget I have I am very happy with the squad we have put together. Like anything else I had a couple of players slip through my fingers like Faz Kudozovic, who I would have liked to come here. He would have liked it here at Terryland because its a good surface and a good club. There is not a lot behind the scenes, but that has got to change. Still from the first game of pre-season when we played with 11 trialists there has been a hell of a change, and the way we are shaping up is encouraging.
“Outside of Bohs and Rovers I think there is a fairer spread of players. This time last year we wouldn't have Stephen O'Donnell playing here so that is an example of that. It is certainly going to be competitive. In a 10 team league I think that home form is going to be vital.”
It is on the road where Galway must make a statement, though, and with O’Donnell supplying substance and subtlety in the centre of the park avoiding an opening day loss would represent a satisfactory evening’s work.
•Galway United Supporters’ Trust will be running a bus to Friday evening’s premier division match at Richmond Park, departing the Marriott Hotel, Headford Road, at 4pm. To book a seat contact Ronan 087-6972823. The bus is for GUST members only. Membership costs €5, forms will be available on the bus, and are also available on-line at www.galwayunitedfc.net GUST will have a season ticket stand this Saturday upstairs in Elverys Sports, Galway Retail Park, Headford Road. Champions League draw tickets and GUST membership forms will also be available. Adult season tickets are on sale at €150, with concession tickets costing €90. A discount rate of €100 for social welfare receipients is also available.