Title-chasing Rovers next up for beleaguered United

It has been a truly miserable campaign for Galway United packed with comprehensive defeats and unfortunately another extremely tricky test awaits on Sunday evening when champions Shamrock Rovers visit Terryland Park.

Despite heading to the Carlisle Grounds in a reasonably optimistic frame of mind last Friday, Galway suffered a harrowing four-goal loss to Bray Wanderers, who took maximum advantage following the early dismissal of Laurence Gaughan. That red card means Sean Connor will again be forced to shuffle his pack due to Gaughan's suspension for the Rovers’ clash which promises to be a severely exacting encounter.

Shamrock Rovers' European commitments mean they have been forced to deal with a busy schedule over the past two months, but Michael O'Neill's squad has plenty of depth. With the resources available the Hoops manager has been able to maintain their push for a second successive title, but, with Derry City and Sligo Rovers very much involved in the hunt, Rovers know only a win will suffice against the basement boys.

Four victories in their past five matches is an adequate haul for the Hoops, but with the Candystripes showing no signs of wilting, and Sligo Rovers a capable outfit, there should be no shortage of thrills and spills in the search for silverware at the summit of the table.

Galway's concerns are pressing too for other reasons. Already consigned to an inevitable relegation play/off, Galway still need to terminate their worst sequence of losses quickly. There is no denying the sense of embarrassment that accompanies such a wretched streak and the lack of confidence and conviction is particularly disturbing.

It is difficult for a Galway team light on craft and experience to compete seriously at this level when Rovers will bring experienced footballers such as Pat Sullivan, Ken Oman, Conor McCormack, Chris Turner, Billy Dennehy, and Gary Twiggs to the west. Two players, Stephen O'Donnell and Karl Sheppard, who contributed so much in the maroon shirt in 2010, have had their Rovers' progress dogged by injury and Galway can only dream of the possibility of parading that type of talent once more.

With no expectation, though, Galway must continue to provide fiery displays if they are to cause teams with Rovers' class any kind of trouble. Connor might opt to stuff the midfield with bodies in an attempt to disturb the visitors, but, whatever formation the Galway boss selects, there will be no disguising the Dubliners' greater all-round strength.

Galway certainly lack poise, but the locals who continue to flock to the Dyke Road regardless of the impending defeats deserve to see a side that will be rugged. When Derry eventually burned Galway a fortnight ago, few could dispute Galway's enthusiasm. A similar drive and desire has to be shown until November.

A play-off with Cork City, Monaghan United or Limerick FC is what ultimately awaits Galway and that will be an awkward collision. Before that defining spell Galway must scramble around to locate some belief and hope which will not be easy as every club craves points now that the business end of the Irish footballing year has arrived.

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