United finding form for season-defining fixtures

Heartened by last Friday's smashing 2 - 0 success over champions Bohemians, Galway United will be hoping to add further points to their account tomorrow when Drogheda United visit Terryland Park.

Avoiding the dreaded relegation play-off is Galway's ambition and, if they perform with the dash displayed in Phibsboro, there is every reason to believe this target can be achieved.

Despite all the financial problems, Sean Connor has delivered a competitive team every week even when the squad was stretched by several transfer window departures in July. The Galway manager has remained defiant throughout the year and his passion is respected by a group of players who are developing well under his stewardship.

A lack of ruthlessness on the Dyke Road has cost Galway on more than one occasion so Connor will be demanding a cool and clinical performance against the physical Boynesiders.

Galway's cause will not be helped by the suspensions of Paul Synott and Rhys Meynell, who were both dismissed in Dalymount. Philip Reilly, who entered the fray as a second-half substitute, should earn a starting berth alongside the under-rated Jamie McKenzie, who continues to marshall the Galway defence impressively.

The versatile Stephen Walsh, who has put in shifts in a raft of different positions, is likely to commence the contest at left full where his aggression will be vital against a determined Drogheda outfit.

Stephen O'Donnell's value to this Galway side was underlined when Bohemians were defeated, while Ciaran Foley and Gary Curran have been consistent too.

Foley has been a key contributor since the outset of the campaign, providing a solidity that permits O'Donnell to pass and probe. Curran is also blessed with a decent distribution range so Galway can carve opportunities as Derek O'Brien's pace offers another threat.

O'Brien has returned following a lengthy absence with a testing stomach muscle injury to inject speed into Galway's play out wide and remains a significant figure in the league. Always regarded as a chief threat by visiting teams to the Corrib, O'Brien will occupy a crucial role as Galway intend to climb the table.

Karl Sheppard earned praise from Republic of Ireland international John O'Shea at the start of the month for his direct running, and his last appearance at Terryland was packed with promise. Liverpool's reserve XI was stuffed with underage internationals, but Sheppard was as talented and prominent as any of their footballers. A return cross channel beckons, but Connor is correct in asserting that first team football in the domestic game will assist in Sheppard's career. In the closing months of the season Galway will require goals and a diligent work rate from Sheppard.

It is an especially interesting 10 days for Galway, who also host Salthill Devon in the FAI Cup on Friday week. These two upcoming matches are crucially important and could be regarded as defining fixtures. How an understrength Galway cope with Drogheda's robustness early on will be pivotal, but there is hope attached to the Tribesmen again.

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