These are worrying times for Galway United, who have suffered seven agonising defeats on the trot, and Saturday’s trip up the N17 to face Sligo Rovers will be another significant challenge.
Paul Cook has assembled a talented squad at the Showgrounds, dotted with former Galway players Ciaran Kelly, Alan Keane, Iarfhlaith Davoren, John Russell, and Aaron Greene, so those who journey to the northwest will be fully aware of how competent an outfit the Bit O’Red is.
FAI Cup holders Sligo are keen to make a bold bid for league honours and, despite a couple of surprise results, they remain only two points behind table-toppers Shamrock Rovers. The manner in which Sligo thumped Bray Wanderers and Drogheda United in recent weeks does not augur well for a Galway team that did show traces of improvement when losing to Bohemians at Terryland Park last Friday.
Few can disagree with Sean Connor’s assessment of the Gypsies’ game. "I think the performance was positive, the players worked hard, we kept our shape well, we were undone by the experience of Bohemians and by their clinical finishing.
"I am disappointed we didn't pick up a point and this is by far the worst run I have ever been on as a manager. The worst before this was three losses in a row, but we always got something in the next game. It is frustrating, but you look at the team and it is full of youngsters.
"Gary Kelly, Stephen Walsh, Shaun Kelly, Rory Gartland, Enda Curran, they are all young. We have to try to encourage them, they are all learning at this level.”
However Connor says unfortunately those lessons are costing United goals and points.
“I don't think the public can say we didn't try to get it down and pass it when we could, and that we didn't work hard. Sometimes we get done physically and that is a process. Players are coming here for the first time and we are trying to get them on a weights programme. That is an 18 month process. We are in a difficult situation, but the morale is very good. The attitude of the players in training is fantastic, we just need to stop making mistakes and gifting teams leads which makes life easier for them.”
Injuries have disrupted Connor’s plans over the past two months as Shaun Maher, Gary Curran, Alan Murphy, and Joseph Yoffe all missed the Bohemians’ encounter and doubts remain as to whether they will be involved this weekend.
“Alan has been out for a year and, unfortunately due to the size of our squad, we have been forced to give him 90 minutes far more than we wanted. The plan was to get him off after 60 minutes in all the games he has started, but we weren't able to do that and he ended up having to stay on.
"We were missing Maher, Murphy, Curran, Yoffe, and Feeney - five experienced players, four of whom would definitely have started. Most teams at this level would struggle without four players.
“Shaun [Maher] was playing fine, but in the next game he was struggling. He is a very important player for us and we miss his height at the back when he doesn't play. He also has the ability to get the ball down and play it from the back.
Connor says the team is Alan Murphy's “cuteness and experience”, Gary Curran, who is a very capable midfielder, and Joseph Yoffe who “has the knack of being a good goal poacher”. “We miss him because he can convert chances that we aren't taking at the minute.”
Galway will need to be more efficient in the Showgrounds if the miserable losing sequence is to be ended.
• Galway United Supporters’ Trust will be running a bus to Saturday evening’s premier division game at the Showgrounds, departing the Pillo Hotel, Headford Road, at 4pm. To book a seat contact Ronan Coleman 087-6972823. Galway United will be holding a golf classic at Cregmore GC on Friday May 27 and Saturday May 28. The entry fee per team is €160, with tee times available both days from 12 noon. For further information contact the club office 091-767336, or Tommy Shields 087-930738.