Galway FC's opening game in the Airtricity League will be a home fixture against first division favourites Longford Town on Friday March 7 at Eamonn Deacy Park.
Former Galway United manager Tony Cousins is assembling a formidable squad with the midland outfit, having attracted the highly-regarded ex Shamrock Rovers skipper Stephen Rice. It should be a particularly interesting occasion at the Dyke Road venue as the respective bosses, Tommy Dunne and Cousins, are first cousins.
With matches against Waterford United and Shamrock Rovers B to follow, it will be an exacting introduction to senior football for Galway FC, according to Dunne.
“It is a very tough start for us, there is no doubt about that. In the first three weeks we have Longford Town, Waterford United, and Shamrock Rovers,” he says.
“They will all be extremely tough matches. Longford are after signing some fantastic players. It is nice to be at home and there should be a bit of interest in the game – that is good – but, from a footballing point of view, it will be difficult.
“Overall, though, the division is stronger than it has been for a few seasons in my opinion and that will mean the matches will be very competitive from the start. Our aim is to start the season well and we have a lot of work to do between now and then. Straight away we will be meeting the top teams in the division, but we are looking forward to it.”
Ryan Connolly became the ninth player to sign for Galway FC last week and the 22-years-old midfielder is also relishing the opportunity to spearhead a bold promotion drive. "I am really looking forward to getting started with Galway. It is an exciting time for the club and Tommy Dunne is putting a nice squad together," Connolly said.
"I had offers from other clubs, but, once I heard about Galway's interest, I felt that I had to join them because there is potential here. I spoke with Alan Keane, Iarfhlaith Davoren, and Gary Rogers, who all played with Galway United previously and they all had good things to say. There is a great stadium in Galway and I think that the team can do well this season."
Connolly, who made one first team appearance with Derby County, also won a premier division title with Sligo Rovers in 2012 and hopes to be involved for Galway in a central midfield role. "My best position is in the centre of midfield. A lot of managers put me on the left because I am left footed, but I have been signed as a central midfielder and that is where I feel I can contribute best for the team.
"When you look at the players who have already signed and with the addition of a few more there is no reason why we cannot enjoy a good year."
“It is hugely important that lads in the west of Ireland commit to playing with Galway. Sligo Rovers and Galway are the two teams in the region and guys should want to play for them. The League of Ireland is the highest level you can play at in this country, so I view this as a very good move for me because I feel that Galway can become a good side.”
•Galway FC have confirmed two friendlies at Eamonn Deacy Park next month. On Saturday February 1 (kick off 7.30pm ) FAI Cup holders Sligo Rovers will be the visitors. The following Thursday, February 6 (kick off 7.45pm ) Galway FC host Limerick FC.