Galway United's preparations for the 2015 SSE Airtricity League premier division season are underway as manager Tommy Dunne has agreed new deals with four of his promotion-winning squad.
Ger Hanley, Alex Byrne, Stephen Walsh, and Jake Keegan have all opted to remain with Galway for the significant challenges which await.
"It is an important time for the club and it is great to get things sorted with the lads,” Dunne says. "I expect a few more players to sign in the next few days and we should have them over the line later on in the week.
"Being realistic, we would hope to bring in three or four quality players from outside the group too and there is plenty happening at the moment. I have spoken to some players and will continue to do that, but it is crucial that the players we bring in are the right ones for our group."
Dunne is content that players who contributed hugely to the Galway cause will stay with the Eamonn Deacy Park outfit.
Byrne, who made 19 appearances in Galway's campaign, netted the insurance goal in the 5-1 aggregate promotion/relegation triumph over UCD. The youngster impressed in both defence and midfield during the campaign and Dunne is encouraged by his progress.
“Anybody who saw our games knows that Alex is a player. We are happy he has decided to stay with us and we feel we can help him get even better too. He had to wait for a while to get his chance, but he impressed when he got into the team and we know that he is a player with potential. This year we had a young group and I feel that Alex was one of those who made a huge impact especially towards the end of the season.”
Stephen Walsh's versatility was a real feature of Galway's play as the former Hibernians youngster contributed effectively in central defence and attack.
“Stephen did a job for us up front and then later in the season he was a key figure for us at the back. Having a player with Stephen's qualities will be crucial especially in the premier division,” says Dunne.
Native New Yorker Jake Keegan, who scored 15 goals in 30 first division appearances, will return to Ireland from the USA again in January. “When he first came in Jake impressed with his desire and willingness to work. He showed what he can do in front of goal,” Dunne remarked.
With competitive action to recommence next March, Dunne has “earmarked January 12” as the start of pre-season.
“At the moment it looks as if we will get going on January 12, and I'd like to have the majority of the group in place by then. Circumstances could change and it will depend on the availability of players, but I think that by then we will be very close to having our full group in place.
“The next few weeks will be busy, and it will probably quieten down around Christmas for a spell, and then things will pick up again. That is the nature of it, but we are just so glad to be getting ready for the premier division. It will be a test, but is one we are looking forward to.”