Defensive failings continue to prove costly for United despite improvements

United manager Sean Connor whose hopes of  halting United’s slide do not get any easier. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

United manager Sean Connor whose hopes of halting United’s slide do not get any easier. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

Galway United head for Dalymount Park tomorrow evening charged with the task of bringing an end to the club's longest sequence of defeats.

The Dalymount ground has seen United produce some of its best results in recent times and Sean Connor and his charges will be most anxious to build on an improved display against UCD last Friday in Terryland.

The Gypsies are currently preparing for their Europa Cup second qualifying round tie against the winners of the Siroki Brijeg and Olympia Ljubljana game. Pat Fenlon's side underachieved in Europe last year and, with international concerns coming to the fore, perhaps Galway can profit a little from those serious matters.

Although Bohs might best be described as a side in transition, they can still call on established stars Robert Bayly, Killian Brennan, Ollie Cahill, Liam Burns and United old boy Anto Flood. Flood's partnership with ex-Man United starlet Christy Fagan is a pairing that will be closely monitored.

Two late goals from Bohs saw them capture three points in Dundalk last week. United have been very much a bogey team for Bohs in recent times and for that reason the Gypsies will not lack motivation for this clash.

All teams will present difficulties at this time and Galway must be more concerned with their own preparations rather than the quality of their opponents. The old Chinese adage that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step could usefully be applied to the Tribesmen at this critical point. The revival first must come from the team's own determination and belief and developing those qualities in the face of serial disappointment is a massive task.

To its credit the United squad made a real declaration of intent last week, despite going down to UCD by 4-3. Indeed the journey home down the Dyke Road after the previous week's game was full of mixed emotions for both team and supporters.

While moral victories are absolutely useless to the club, there was some satisfaction that the element of spirit and defiance in United's play kept the issue in doubt to the finish. If home fans were left to rue defensive frailties, it has to be acknowledged that two wonder saves by Ger Barron did most to deprive United on the night. Most pleasing of all was the fire and resolve of the team which exhibited a competitiveness that will surely be rewarded if it can be reproduced consistently.

At both ends of the park United had young players who epitimoised that kind of defiance. Stephen Walsh has never shirked responsibility in his performances and others have taken their cue from him. Newcomer Ronan Caldwell seemed to share that resolve and his dash and competitiveness started to create opportunities for his strike partner Alan Murphy. The St Joseph's teacher found the net twice and prospered in the company of a player who relished in his front running role.

Karl Moore also turned in a sterling outing - the elan of his running game bringing all kinds of trouble to the visiting defence and reminded followers of the grace that former hero Tommy Keane brought to the United jersey on so many Sunday afternoons.

That such a positive display ended in defeat had a great deal to do with defensive failings. UCD is a very good footballing outfit with goalie Barron looking to have the hallmarks of a most serious performer, but United's lapses made it all too easy for Martin Russell's lads. Nevertheless Gary Curran and sub Eduardo provided sure signs that the midfield can be moulded into a steelier force.

Introduced in the most testing times there was a great deal to admire in the play of youngsters Evan Preston-Kelly and Gary Kelly. The latter's ability and preparedness to shoot from long range being a welcome asset to the team's attacking armoury.

Manager Sean Connor's task does not grow any easier with the squad now available for transfer in the window. He will be most aware of how the club's player base needs to be strengthened, but, given the financial plight, he will need to be Solomon-like as he deals with the conflicting demands at the club.

One can expect that United's more able players will feature strongly in the thoughts and plans of their rivals and trying to fashion a competitive team while probably losing your best footballers is Connor's most unenviable lot. The needs are indeed great at this time and one trusts that tomorrow might afford the team some well overdue footballing joy.

• Off the park the beleagured club continues to come up with fundraising ventures. In the year of the 25th anniversary of United's 1986 European game in An Cheathru Rua, local teacher Cormac O Comhrai has run a number of historical tours around the city.


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