United’s cause becomes more urgent

Galway’s sporting public urged to return to Terryland Park

It is a case of top versus bottom tomorrow night when table-toppers Sligo Rovers come to Terryland Park with high hopes of disposing of basement boys Galway United.

Some nine league places and 38 points give this tie the aura of a David and Goliath encounter.

Down through the seasons, Galway United’s cause has never been the easiest sporting calling, but now, on the back of 16 consecutive league losses, things have never been as grim for players, management and suppporters.

In the early days of League Of Ireland football Terryland Park had a spartan feel. Local players relished the discomfort this caused visiting clubs. In the wake then of the '91 FAI Cup victory there was considerable impetus to transform Terryland, but, regrettably, United now have a venue whose capacity is seldom if ever tested, despite boasting one of the finest pitches.

In those early times crowds walked up the Dyke Road, creating a communal family atmosphere on Sunday afternoons. In the stadium today that communal aspect has been lost.

A small band of younger supporters do their best to drum and chant the side to success, continually reveal ing the depths of their support for the club in these miserable days. They are stoical, good humoured and appreciative of any footballing sign of effort and application and they refuse to succumb to the fallacy that all football begins and ends with the delights of the cross-channel premiership. That Galway's own football stars are at best ignored and at worst derided from the comfort of barstools is an affront to sporting dignity.

United accept they are not blameless. The club has failed to connect sufficiently with the Galway sporting family and a series of lofty aims and strategies have never been bedded down strongly enough to ensure a sufficient support and revenue base. This was not for the lack of effort or ambition on activists’ part. There are sad tales of fans forwarding serious monies into the football club in a desperate bid to ensure its survival. Sadly there are cases of other activists feeling so deflated that they do not frequent the games any more.

There is no lack of analysis concerning United's current plight. The folly of three LOI clubs in Galway is continually raised, if folly it be. The fine work of both Mervue and Salthill deserves every regard, and historically United had difficulties before either assumed senior status. United's husbandry has not been as it should be, and difficulties in the business world have seriously curbed its potential.

It has never been as difficult for young United players to perform. One despairs that a youngster like Stephen Walshe's play would not be spoken of in the same breath as other Galway sporting performers. There is a defiance and thunder about his play that more than deserves hundreds of Galway voices rising to his spirit. The play of Mikey Gilmore, Alan Murphy, Gary Curran and skipper Paul Sinnott merits every commendation but most of all deserves support.

Sligo come calling with the simple task of adding to Galway woes. A glimpse at the team sheets will see perhaps a half dozen Rovers who once plied their wares in the home colours - Alan Keane, John Russell and Iarfhlaith Davoren. It is Galway's loss that United could not hold their talents. Add in Ndo, Doyle, Blinkhorn, Peers and now the very fine talent of new capture Conor Powell and tomorrow's game looks set to have only one footballing outcome.

Galway's plight is great and, if the club can entreat more fans to this derby clash and thereby assist with the defiant aspect of United's play against Bohs and UCD, then the most unlikely result could be fashioned.

•Tickets for Friday evening’s match versus Sligo Rovers are available from Terryland Park and from O'Briens Newsagents, William Street, Galway. A family ticket or two adult tickets are on sale at €20, with all u-12s free of charge.

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