Newly-promoted Galway United will be hoping to make a productive SSE Airtricity League premier division start when hosting Derry City at Eamonn Deacy Park tomorrow (7.45pm ).
With President Michael D Higgins also set to attend the fixture, Tommy Dunne's side will be anxious to deliver a purposeful performance in what should be an interesting encounter.
Following an extensive pre-season, manager Dunne is happy that “competitive” action is returning to the Dyke Road venue.
“I think everybody is just delighted to get back into competitive football again,” Dunne says. “That is what we are in the game for, so it is always a nice time when the matches start again because you want to test yourself. We will now be testing ourselves against the best teams in the country so from that aspect it is a very exciting time for everyone involved with the club.
“We will go into Friday's game hoping to get a result. We will try to set up the team the way we see fit, but we are under no illusions every game is difficult in the premier division. People will say it is a cliche, but there aren't any easy games, so we have to deal with that as the season progresses.”
Two key players in last year's promotion success, Paddy Barrett and Republic of Ireland under 19 international Ryan Manning, have left for Dundalk and Queens Park Rangers respectively.
“We've tried to replace the players we've lost,” says Dunne. “ Obviously Paddy became a very important player for us towards the end of last season, but Sam Oji is an experienced player who can do well for us. He gives us strength at the back and there is no doubt that he will be a vital squad member for us.
"David O'Leary is a good footballer, he is a player I tried to sign a couple of times before so it is nice to get him, while Kevin Garcia should be available the week after next. He is a player with a good pedigree and he should do well in the League of Ireland.
"It will be hard to replace Ryan Manning simply because not many youngsters like him come around. Over the course of the season you're certainly going to miss a player like Ryan, who is versatile and has such ability. We wish him the best of luck with QPR, but we will miss him.”
Dunne believes others in the United squad can produce for the club in the coming weeks and months.
“Overall I'm happy enough that we retained the majority of our group and it is great to see Jay Molloy in good form. A lot of the lads who contributed to our promotion-winning campaign will be keen to well in the premier division.
"At this stage it can be difficult because everyone is excited, but I feel that our group is strong enough to get results in this league.
“People might say that Derry City and Bohemians aren't in the current list of so-called top teams, but they will be looking at us saying exactly the same thing. It means that in these matches everyone will feel they can get a result, so the matches should be lively. That is a good thing, but we think we have enough about us to start the season well. We've trained hard up until now, so we want our work to be reflected in the performances.”
On Monday Galway are at home again to Finn Harps in the EA Sports Cup, but Dunne says the sole focus at present is Friday's clash with the Candystripes.
“It is a busy weekend with the EA Sports Cup game on Monday against Finn Harps. I will probably look at different things, but at the moment our only focus is on the Derry City game. We want to get a result in that. I will see how the Derry game goes before I make any real plans for the Harps fixture. We are just concentrating on Friday, we are greatly looking forward to it.”