Two managers will face their former clubs tomorrow night at Terryland Park as Galway United and Dundalk commence a hectic Easter schedule.
Ian Foster’s return to the Dyke Road as Dundalk boss adds a layer of interest to a game in which Sean Connor wants to avoid defeat. Though United were spirited against Shamrock Rovers, manager Connor acknowledged that his side did not fashion enough opportunities. However he hopes the capture of attacker Anto Flood aids his side ahead of contests with the Lilywhites and away to UCD in the next four days.
Flood’s powerful frame and aerial ability provides Galway with a foil for Sheppard’s pace, and Connor insists he is getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of his squad.
"I think every time we play we must learn. I've learned one or two things from the Rovers’ game, one or two things have surprised me too. If we had got battered, I'd probably take it better, but we weren't battered.”
In the League of Ireland there is no disguising the importance of starting matches in a firm manner, and Connor believes every team must earn the right to perform.
"We competed, the second-half performance, and the honesty and integrity of their play cannot be faulted. But still the fact is we lost one nil. Sometimes there are too many of our boys who want to get it down to pass and try to play the beautiful game from the first minute.
“I believe that in this league you have to be prepared to battle for the first 20-25 minutes to make sure you are solid, and that you are in the game. Then when it opens up, we have enough ball players to cause teams problems.”
Galway, prompted by Stephen O’Donnell, did enjoy some productive moments both sides of the interval when Rovers were in the west, but they lacked the potency to seriously threaten in the final third. Now that Flood, who featured in a pre-season friendly against Hull City, is eligible to partner Sheppard, there is cause for optimism.
Foster has assembled a talented squad at Oriel Park, including ex Galway centre half Garry Breen. Faz Kudozovic and Neale Fenn provide a subtle threat up top, so denying them time and space will be critical.
Dundalk remain unbeaten four matches into the new campaign, and Foster, who always sought to stick to a passing style when at Terryland, brings a decent squad of players to the west.
Following losses to Sligo Rovers and the Hoops, Connor is particularly eager to terminate that sequence.
“We don't want to lose three games back-to-back. As a manager I don't think I have ever done that, so we will want to get something out of the game. It won't be easy, and a bit like Shamrock Rovers, they will be big and physical and will cause us problems from set pieces.”
Last Friday Pat Sullivan punished a defensive lapse in concentration when heading home a wicked Seanie O’Connor free-kick, and Galway know they must be resolute as Dundalk will be similarly testing opponents.
• Galway United Supporters Trust will be running a bus to the premier division match against UCD at Belfield on Easter Monday, departing the Marriott Hotel, Headford Road, at 4pm. Seats can be booked by ringing Ronan at (087 ) 6972823.
Tickets for the Galway United Champions League draw will be on sale at Friday’s premier division match at Terryland Park (KO 7.45pm ). First prize is tickets, flights, plus accommodation for two people to the Champions League final in Madrid on May 22. Tickets are also on sale from the Galway United office 091-767336.