Having staged a dramatic late recovery mission at the UCD Bowl on Monday evening to accumulate a 2-1 SSE Airtricity League promotion/relegation play/off advantage, Galway FC will be hoping to claim top flight status in front of a bumper Eamonn Deacy Park crowd tomorrow.
Paddy Barrett and Republic of Ireland under 19 international Ryan Manning grabbed two goals in the closing stages as Galway defeated the Students in the first leg. UCD led courtesy of a splendid strike from former Salthill Devon youngster Timmy Molloy, but Galway controlled vast chunks of the contest especially in the second period.
A thrilling 10 match unbeaten league run has brought Galway to the verge of the Premier Division and Dunne is thrilled by the commitment that continues to be shown. “I cannot fault the players’ effort. They've done everything that has been asked of them and I'm just so delighted their hard work is being reflected in the matches.
“It is only half-time and we have to do it all over again on Friday. To be truthful if you asked me would I be happy leaving UCD with a one goal to be sure I would, but I thought we could even have had one or two more. That is the only disappointing side of it.”
Galway's passion and perseverance during the campaign pleases Dunne, who is enthused by the 'never say die' attitude of the squad. “We had difficult moments during the year when things went against us. I was disappointed that we weren't in title contention in the First Division because we left points behind us in certain games. The most pleasing thing has been how we have reacted to the little setbacks we suffered.
“Even in the last two play/off matches we kept going when falling behind to Shelbourne and UCD. We stayed at it and things turned for us. We have worked tremendously hard to get to the position we are now in, but the players will be under no illusions. It is only half-time. That is all.
“The guys never say die and they want to win. Earlier on in the season we were so anxious to win matches that we were probably a bit open at times. I think we understand more now and when to attack and when not to be silly.
“I think we got control of the game in the second half on Monday. Once we got control of the match we got control of territory. It allowed us get into more advanced positions, but you have to be careful too. When you get up the pitch you can be vulnerable on the break too. For us to score so late on was brilliant. These boys never say die, the whole lot of them.”
To offer proof of the impact this exciting team is making in the west Galway brought three hundred spectators to both Tolka Park and the UCD Bowl which delighted Dunne. “I think people are believing in what we are trying to do. The support the players have got has been brilliant especially in recent weeks. We need that to continue and we need them to help us on Friday night.
“The support has been unbelievable and I would like to thank them because they are driving the boys on. So many people travelled to Dublin on Friday and on Monday. I hope they can drive them on next Friday too. Please God we will have a big crowd. I do think the lads deserve to get a big crowd and we need them to help the boys get through. The crowd are vital for the players to get them up and going.”
Robbie Benson and Robbie Creevy will return to the UCD starting XI following bans, but Dunne is 'hopeful' that the immensely promising Alex Byrne may also recover to further bolster a Galway midfield in which skipper Paul Sinnott and Ryan Connolly remain influential figures. “We are still in it, but UCD are dangerous opposition, they will get players who were suspended back into their team,” Dunne admits. “It was a great result to get, but the tie is not over, we know that.
“Hopefully Alex will be available for selection because he has done brilliantly since he has come in. He is dynamic, he can get around the pitch, he is very good, and hopefully he will be available. We are going to need everybody, I speak to them about it, we will need everybody.”