From an early stage of the season it was apparent Galway United’s threadbare squad would struggle to cope with any injury enforced absentees, and that is proving to be the case as Sean Connor’s team prepare to host Dundalk at Terryland Park tomorrow evening.
Four defeats on the spin against Derry City, Bray Wanderers, Shamrock Rovers, and St Patrick’s Athletic tell the tale as inadequate Galway defending in those matches has been ruthlessly punished. Even when making a stylish start in Inchicore on Monday, grabbing two goals courtesy of Shane Keogh and Alan Murphy, Galway were still pegged back - unfortunately leaking five goals as the Saints recovered.
Last Friday there was plenty to enthuse about the manner in which Galway competed with Shamrock Rovers, but a slice of Karl Sheppard opportunism ensured the Hoops escaped from the west three points richer. Ultimately at this stage of the year it is all about eking out results so the Dundalk encounter is extremely important.
Ian Foster has constructed a nice footballing side at Oriel Park stuffed with experience, while nifty winger Daniel Kearns offers youth and imagination out wide. Kearns’ development will be aided by so many proven League of Ireland performers like Galway native Colin Hawkins, Mark Quigley, and Jason Byrne.
Galway do not have such attacking guile and that is why they are ailing at the moment and are six points behind third bottom UCD. Drogheda are at the basement and have been suffering since March, but the students success over them on Monday will have worried Sean Connor somewhat.
The Galway manager has insisted his side needs to keep in touch with those ahead of them in the standings, and the upcoming clashes with Dundalk and UCD over the weekend can certainly be listed in the crucial category. Lately there have been nuggets of encouragement for Galway, particularly the way in which Shane Keogh has been prominent.
Blessed with a cute left peg, the teenager bagged a goal at Richmond Park and has the ability to be one of Galway’s most threatening set piece providers in quite some time. Assistant manager Gareth Gorman is guiding Keogh on the tricks of that trade, but the evidence from the past fortnight suggests the St Mary’s College youngster can emerge as a decent player even at this early stage.
Considering the injuries to Gary Curran and Joseph Yoffe, Connor has carefully introduced the local talent that is available to him. Wisely not wanting to flog them, Connor has given Gary Kelly and Rory Gartland glimpses of life at the highest level in the country.
Mikey Gilmore’s capture gives Galway another viable option in attack and the former Salthill Devon striker is capable of being a key contributor. Pacy, honest, and aggressive, Gilmore also has the skill to aid Galway’s cause and will have benefitted from two appearances as a substitute against Rovers and Pat’s.
Eradicating the defensive mistakes which have cost Galway so dearly will be Connor and Gorman’s focus during the limited time they have on the training ground due to such a heavy schedule in May. Dundalk will try to pass and probe, but if Galway can demonstrate the drive and desire that frustrated the Hoops for long stretches, they may be able to avoid a fifth straight loss. Narrowing the gap is the current objective and if that is not done following Monday’s visit to the Belfield Bowl, this hardworking Galway group will be dejected.
• Match tickets for Friday evening’s premier division match at Terryland Park are on sale from the Galway United office, and from O'Brien’s Newsagents, William Street. Adult tickets cost €12, with concessions €10 and secondary school students €5. U-12s are free of charge (accompanied ) and a family ticket is on sale at €20. The Goalpost Bar, Woodquay, is Friday evening’s after-match pub sponsor.
•Galway United will be holding a golf classic at Cregmore GC on May 27 and 28. The entry fee per team is €160, with tee times available both days from 12 noon. For further information, contact the club office091-767336, or Tommy Shields 087-2930738.