Having only registered a paltry two points from 17 previous Terryland Park games this season, Galway United will be hoping to make some kind of improvement on that woeful record when Bray Wanderers visit the Dyke Road tomorrow evening.
So efficient in the early stages of the campaign, Bray, who thumped Drogheda United last Friday, have endured a surprisingly difficult second half to the League of Ireland calendar. However they will hit the west to face a Galway team miserably low on self confidence and belief. The upcoming relegation/promotion play-off fixtures may be dominating Galway's plans, but two reasonable displays against UCD and Drogheda in recent weeks has not given too much hope to the westerners.
Bray know a victory will guarantee them a sixth place finish on the table which would be a signficant achievement considering Dundalk's expensively assembled squad. That would probably represent the biggest surprise of the campaign as Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers, Derry City, St Patrick's Athletic, and Bohemians were always likely to occupy the healthiest positions.
Unfortunately the statistics are getting worse by the week for Galway, who now trail a moderate Drogheda United outfit by 16 points. Another unwanted record is the concession of 105 goals. That figure would be higher but for a splendid goalkeeping display from Conor Winn in the Brandywell last Sunday as Galway, gutsy for a spell in the second half, lost by four to the Candystripes.
It has been that kind of year for Galway. Even when traces of defiance and spirit have been evident, fortune has rarely favoured the youngsters who continue to be tormented by superior footballing sides. With the players at John Brennan’s disposal, Galway cannot truly compete, but Bray are the type of opposition that can be tested by an enthusiastic approach.
Pat Devlin has opted for the usual Bray mixture of youth and experience as Darren Quigley, Daire Doyle, and Gary Dempsey supply the guile alongside the promise of Adam Mitchell, Jake Kelly, and Conor Murphy.
With the play-offs less than a fortnight away, Galway need to take some kind of momentum and optimism into those revealing tussles, and with a daunting trip to Tallaght Stadium on the agenda next week, the Bray encounter carries importance. One point since April is all Galway have mustered despite taking the lead in clashes with UCD and Drogheda.
On those occasions Galway had opportunities to add to their tally, but they were twice caught out by quick rallies. Galway's infuriating tendency to concede goals in bundles has caused most of the heartache during the worst run of results, but there has been no shortage of effort or endeavour from a group of players that collectively do not possess the class to operate at the highest level in this country.
There are exceptions with a couple of footballers providing glimpses of their talent, but little has gone right for Galway in any department. The next month brings challenges both on and off the field which must be embraced with courage and character if any positive news is to emerge.