The last few weeks of the League of Ireland season is precisely the time to deliver results and that is what Galway United must do, starting at Terryland Park on Saturday (6.30pm ) when UCD visit the Dyke Road venue.
Anything less than a victory will probably consign United into a relegation play-off as UCD hit the west in a decent position after their shock success over Shamrock Rovers on Friday.
Since the stirring recovery mission against Sligo Rovers, Galway have suffered three heavy defeats on the spin. A vast improvement is required as Galway enter a crucial phase of the campaign, hopeful of staging another last-gasp escape mission.
Two years ago in the Belfield Bowl Galway needed to win to avoid the drop and despite all the pressure they managed to eke out the win. That type of sleeves-rolled-up mentality must be exhibited once more and there is sufficient character in this Galway team.
Manager Sean Connor deserves to be commended for the gritty manner in which he has continued to construct competitive starting XIs bearing in mind the players that were shedded from the panel during the year due to financial constraints. Had Anto Flood and Bobby Ryan remained with Galway, there is no doubting a few extra points would be in Galway’s account as they have missed both footballers. Ryan’s subtlety crafts opportunities, while Flood was a goal threat and had formed a promising partnership with Karl Sheppard.
Flood and Sheppard dovetailed well and there have been flashes of potential between Steven Walsh and the former Everton youngster. Connor has a couple of tricky decisions to make ahead of this UCD encounter, but may opt to pair Walsh with Sheppard again up top.
Throughout the year, much to Connor’s credit, the Galway side has been willing to probe and attack regardless of the opposition. That is unlikely to change at the weekend though Connor will be demanding a disciplined display from his defence.
Galway have scarcely been aided by suspensions, injuries, and absences in recent weeks and the lack of depth and resources has been highlighted. All of Galway’s first-choice players and management are loaded with hope and confidence when they are in a position to field a full strength outfit, but at this late stage of the season that can be an extremely difficult ask.
That is why the importance of being earnest is of huge importance. If Galway perform with the right mixture of spirit and skill, they can still climb above UCD in the table.
Martin Russell’s charges will arrive in Terryland intent on distributing the ball on the deck, but if Galway thunder into the challenges, the students can be disturbed.
At this juncture it is all about commitment and Connor will have Galway primed for a battle that will come close to defining a season’s work. Considering the patience and perseverance Connor and Gareth Gorman have demonstrated in 2010, it would be a shame if Galway had to face into a series of nail biting play-offs. There is still a chance Galway can overtake UCD this October and a loyal group of workers will not be short on incentive against the traditionally tidy students.