Early season derby for first division rivals

Contrasting starts to the Airtricity League first division season ensures tomorrow's Fahy's Field encounter between Mervue United and Salthill Devon carries added significance.

Mervue's battling display at Lissywoolen earned them an encouraging point when drawing with Athlone Town on Saturday, but the previous night Salthill Devon were ripped apart by Longford Town. Undoubtedly a string of suspensions disturbed Tony Mannion's charges, who will need to be vastly improved for the Galway derby.

Mervue were gutsy against Roddy Collins' outfit, surviving a late onslaught to nick a share of the spoils. That was a highly satisfactory result for Johnny Glynn's new-look side, which was resilient in denying Athlone.

Salthill were not solid at the back as Longford made a positive statement which suggests they will be a team to be reckoned with this term. How Salthill respond to the hammering will reveal much about their character as they seek to make small progress with a youthful squad.

With meetings ongoing regarding the possibility of fielding one united Galway club in the 2014 Airtricity League, the sad current reality is that little fanfare surrounds Mervue and Salthill's collision.

In a weak division, Athlone and Longford are hoping to launch promotion bids so the first fixtures for Mervue and Salthill were difficult. The initial March signs are that Mervue could cause a surprise or two in the coming weeks and months. Mervue outwitted Cockhill Celtic in the EA Sports and followed up that result by avoiding defeat in the midlands. The departures of goalkeeper Ronan Forde and the promising Pat Hoban, who has joined Dundalk, ensures that Michael McSweeney, Martin Conneely, Mike Elwood, Jason Molloy, and Marc Ludden will occupy key roles for Mervue. All those players have become accustomed to the League of Ireland and they are now experienced at dealing with awkward assignments.

Gary Curran is a notable midfield addition and his skill and subtlety should carve opportunities throughout the campaign. Interestingly, Glynn included talented teenager Ryan Manning in attack for the Athlone contest. A prolific goalscorer at underage level, his inclusion at this level hints at his considerable promise.

Jean Biansumba was Salthill's main signing and his pace eked out a couple of fine wins for Mervue in 2012 so they will be aware of his threat. There is a familiar look to the Salthill squad with Nicky Curran, Cian Fadden, Brian Gaffney, Colm Horgan, and Timmy Molloy expected to deliver in this early season all Galway tussle.

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