With only four SSE Airtricity League first division games remaining, Galway FC know a victory at Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday evening against Finn Harps will edge them closer to a craved promotion play-off berth.
Throughout the campaign a top three finish has been Galway's target and Tommy Dunne's charges have hit form at precisely the right time in the domestic footballing year. Recent wins over Longford Town, Waterford United, and Shamrock Rovers B ensure Galway lead fourth-placed Wexford Youths in the table by five points.
It is a healthy cushion Galway will be looking to extend, providing the Tribesmen are as safe and solid as they were in the successes over Waterford and Rovers. Those results were achieved with commanding displays in which Galway married substance with a bit of style. Dunne's side was resourceful at Tallaght Stadium too as Jake Keegan's opportunistic double enabled the visitors to outfox the Hoops’ second string.
Rovers fielded a strong XI for that clash, but Galway coped admirably to eke out the full complement of spoils which means the upcoming tussle with Harps carries huge significance.
Harps, under the stewardship of Salthill native Ollie Horgan, have enjoyed an encouraging stint themselves and Galway have found them obdurate opponents during 2014. Galway narrowly beat Harps in the EA Sports Cup, but the three first division encounters involving the clubs have all ended level. That statistic confirms Harps' durability so Galway will be aware of how concentrated they must be to maintain their pursuit of Shelbourne and Longford Town.
Armed with momentum as confidence levels increase, Galway have the potential to make a further impact. With players returning to action from injury, Galway's squad has more depth, particularly in attack where Dunne has plenty of options.
Ryan Manning, a key figure for the Republic of Ireland u-19s when they defeated Netherlands in a friendly, will be available again for Galway, while the emergence of Padraic Cunningham gives Dunne another youngster capable of causing problems. Vinny Faherty, Enda Curran, and Keegan have all had impressive moments in the last couple of months, so Galway are well stocked to continue their promotion pursuit.
However the qualities Harps bring to the west on Saturday should not be discounted because Horgan has constructed a resilient group.
In 24 matches Harps have drawn 11 which provides evidence of their considerable grit and determination. Horgan's shrewd work ensures they proudly possess the second best defensive record in the division, having only leaked 18 goals thus far. The problem, though, for Harps has been that Cobh Ramblers and Shamrock Rovers B are the only teams to have scored fewer, but Galway expect a stern assignment.
As the season has evolved Galway have become slightly more efficient on home turf – something Dunne was anxious to improve following difficulties initially – and six triumphs out of a dozen is a reasonable return. If Galway turn that Eamonn Deacy Park record into eight out of 14, a play-off spot will be booked so the upcoming month promises to be both revealing and defining.