A dramatic year for Galway United, loaded with crucial contests and strange stories, concludes at the Belfield Bowl tomorrow (7.45pm ).
There is no disguising the sheer importance of this encounter with UCD, and Galway United’s season will be defined by what happens over the 90 plus minutes in Dublin 4.
Should United deliver the desired victory, a sense of achievement will accompany the success, but anything less and Finn Harps may leapfrog Jeff Kenna’s side. Certainly it will be a night for cool heads as composure is required.
That was precisely what Galway demonstrated last Friday evening when burning Harps at Terryland with a dynamic display. True, there was an element of luck about Marc McCulloch’s opener, but fortune favoured the brave and Galway were courageous throughout.
This was exemplified by John Lester’s smashing midfield performance that reminded a passionate crowd about the importance of heart and honesty in the centre of the park. At the back skipper John Fitzgerald and Alan Keane dealt with the Stephen Parkhouse threat, and when Conor Gethins dashed forward Galway still coped.
On the rare occasions Harps were afforded a glimpse of the Galway goal Gary Rogers managed to make the necessary saves, and when the custodian was beaten, Alan Keane nodded a blistering Gethins’ effort off the line. It was that kind of match when colleagues were providing assistance at every opportunity.
Lester might have been the dominant force, but he would be the first to acknowledge the steady contributions of Ciaran Foley, Jonathan Keane, and Alan Murphy. Kenna’s system continues to flummox opponents, who are being surprised by Galway’s commendable willingness to work.
With John Russell an unfortunate absentee, much of the creativity duties fell on Murphy and Jay O’Shea’s shoulders, and the stylish manner in which a sweet second goal was crafted augurs well. O’Shea, being watched now by several championship outfits, paraded his skill in the 53rd minute when prising the Harps’ defence open for Murphy to steer a precise finish home. When the Harps net rattled, the Dyke Road audience simply knew that the natives would oblige as momentum was now attached to the challenge. The third goal was appropriately stroked home by Lester late on.
But can United can replicate this industry against the students? UCD, already relegated, will enter this game in the favourable position of having nothing to lose. Having already emerged victors against Galway at Terryland. Pete Mahon’s side will have the luxury of playing without fear and anything can happen.
That is why Galway must be forceful and competitive, disturbing College’s passing rhythm. The UCD squad is filled with imaginative footballers so United’s errand will be to remain safe and solid initially. It is all about maintaining the high productivity levels that have brought Galway to the brink of safety.
Back in May it was Derek Glynn’s smooth opportunism that handed Galway their first league win of the campaign at UCD. Since then Galway’s record in the tussles with UCD, Cobh Ramblers, and Harps has been reasonable, but another triumph must be registered.
Harps host Shamrock Rovers and Ballybofey, and have enough incentive to claim the Hoops’ scalp. So Galway will trot into Belfield with achieving a win as the mission. Perhaps a draw may prove to be sufficient, but Kenna will be targeting the full complement, and there should not be any shortage of intrigue.
HOW THE PREMIER DIVISON STANDS
P W D L GF GA Pts
Bohemians 32 26 4 2 52 12 82
St Patrick's Athletic 32 19 6 7 46 24 63
Derry City 32 15 10 7 42 23 55
Cork City 32 15 11 6 44 25 46
Sligo Rovers 32 11 12 9 39 28 45
Bray Wanderers 32 11 6 15 28 50 39
Shamrock Rovers 32 8 13 11 33 33 37
Drogheda United 32 12 9 11 38 30 35
Galway United 32 7 8 17 33 49 29
Finn Harps 32 8 4 20 24 53 28
Cobh Ramblers 32 6 8 18 25 51 26
UCD 32 4 9 19 19 45 21