With promotion to the SSE Airtricity League premier division secured, Galway FC's preparations for the significant challenges which await in the top flight next year have already commenced.
The Tribesmen, who will be renamed Galway United in 2015, destroyed UCD by three goals at Eamonn Deacy Park in Friday's promotion/relegation play-off second leg to claim a 5-1 aggregate success.
Manager Tommy Dunne said his players had earned their promotion.
“I’m just delighted to be at the top table again and I think it’s important for a club of this size that it’s in the premier division, but you’ve no divine right. You have to earn it and the players earned it out there, they were brilliant from start to finish.”
Galway produced a stirring 11 match unbeaten league run to claim the promotion.
“As the season went on we got stronger and better,” says Dunne. “We brought in a couple of additions, we got to know the way we wanted to play, and in the last 10 or 12 games we’ve been very strong. That got us over the line, but we know that we’re going to have to strengthen and improve for next year if we’re going to be competitive again.
Dunne, who is anxious to retain the majority of his current squad, is also hoping to attract a few experienced recruits. “I know other clubs are out and chasing players. We have to get at it quickly. I’m sure there are one or two of our players that people might be interested in, but unless they’re going to a top two or three team, then I think they’d be better staying here.
“There are a lot of Galway players around the league, one or two of them might be interested in coming back, but, in saying that, we have to assess our group now. They’ve worked hard to get this club back into the premier division so we’ve got to make sure we give them a fair crack.
“We’re not going to start throwing money at it because we’re in the premier division. I think there are a lot of people around here that know what happened when those days were around. For us, the budget will need to be increased, but we’re going to have to work hard as a club to try to get more sponsorship in and I know the club have been looking at that too.”
Dunne paid tribute to the work carried out by Mervue United and Salthill Devon developing local footballers. “I’d like to congratulate some of the managers who worked with these players before at Mervue and Salthill - Johnny Glynn and Gary O’Connor who were with Mervue last year and John Brennan and Tony Mannion who were with Salthill.
“There are a lot of people who should be congratulated for getting this club back in the premier division. The foresight to see that it needs just one team in Galway, Mervue and Salthill with the Galway FA and the supporters worked really hard together, we all worked hard, a lot of people might have said it was going to be difficult because there were so many different entities involved, but we made it work.”
Dunne, who steered Cork City to the first division title in 2011, highlighted the drive and desire his Galway group demonstrated throughout the adventure. “The game is about players and if you don’t have a hungry group of players who are prepared to do the work, week-in, week-out, and listen and learn and fight and die for each other, then you’re wasting your time. Everybody is part of this and I’d like to congratulate them all.”
One of Galway's most consistent performers, Colm Horgan, reflected on an “absolutely fabulous” sporting year for his family.
Older brother Daryl was a key figure in Dundalk's premier division winning campaign, and Colm, rapidly developing into one of the most effective right backs in the League of Ireland, reckons Galway's glory was all about graft.
“It has been an absolutely fabulous year for the Horgan household. It was probably bigger for Daryl winning the premier division. He deserved it because he has worked as hard as he could. I've never seen someone put in as much as he has. He is in the gym four times a week on top of training. Everything he has got he has earned. There is no difference with ourselves at Galway, everything we've got we have earned. I think we can be a good team and we can be a force to be reckoned with next year.”