Throughout the opening stages of the League of Ireland season Galway United manager Sean Connor has repeatedly emphasised the importance of following an encouraging away draw with a home win, and that is precisely what Galway United will be trying to achieve when UCD visit Terryland Park tomorrow evening.
Galway were solid when dividing the spoils with Dundalk last Friday, and Connor will be hoping for a similarly stingy display against the students.
Galway have been depleted during the past three matches which featured stalemates with Sligo Rovers and Dundalk and a defeat to Shamrock Rovers, but the return of Stephen O’Donnell will inject a drop of midfield creativity.
O’Donnell and Karl Sheppard played for the Airtricity League representative XI in Malahide on Tuesday, and Seamus Conneely would have been involved except for injury, which demonstrates the potential in the west.
Connor and Gareth Gorman are being forced to work with a threadbare panel, but they have remained positive despite a recent injury crisis, and there has been no shortage of Galwegian honesty.
A willingness to work is always required when UCD are in town because Martin Russell’s clever team will attempt to distribute the ball on the deck. Greg Bolger has enjoyed a highly productive start to the campaign, and Galway must restrict his influence in the centre of the park.
That shouldn’t be too much of problem, though, with O’Donnell available following a harsh suspension. O’Donnell missed two matches as a result of his debatable sending off in the smashing success over Bohemians, and many eyebrows were raised considering Raf Cretaro only received three games for a furiously wild kick on Sheppard on the same night.
O’Donnell’s probing will certainly aid the front duo of Anto Flood and Sheppard, who are both anxious to rattle the net again. The exciting attackers have strained themselves over the past month, and might be rewarded on the Dyke Road with O’Donnell and Bobby Ryan loading the bullets.
Ryan’s polished performances in Tallaght and Oriel Park showed that the Limerickman can still operate effectively at the highest level. Cute in possession, Ryan tries to play forward at every available opportunity and, now that O’Donnell can work the passing angles, there is a growing optimism that Galway can regain their goal-scoring touch.
At the opposite end of the park the clean sheets account is improving as Barry Ryan is being well protected by Jamie McKenzie and Paul Synott who form a pacy central defensive unit.
While two lapses in concentration proved costly a fortnight ago as Shamrock Rovers edged past Galway, Dundalk were frustrated by Galway’s solidity. UCD will hit the west with Ciaran Kilduff leading the line, but the students favour a measured footballing approach, and McKenzie and Synott have proven they can cope.
An extended run in the first XI has benefitted Synott, who has been both capable and consistent alongside McKenzie. Seamus Conneely remains a crafty full back, and his relationship with Bobby Ryan on the right will be crucial in the summer months.
A comfortable mid-table finish is Galway’s objective, and a victory over the students would leave Connor’s improving outfit in a healthy position.
•Galway United Supporters’ Trust have a number of match tickets available for the upcoming international friendlies against Paraguay (Tuesday May 25 ) and Algeria (Friday May 28 ) at the RDS. For further details contact Ronan at (087 ) 6972823. Entry forms for the GUST World Cup Forecast competition are available on-line at www.galwayunitedfc.ie, and will also be distributed at Friday evening’s home match v UCD at Terryland Park.
GUST will hold its next meeting upstairs in Fibber Magees, Eyre Square, on Tuesday May 25 (7pm ).
Galway United will hold a golf classic in Athenry GC on Friday May 28. Entry fee is €200 per team of four. Contact Ronan for further information.