The SSE Airtricity League premier division season only commenced a month ago, but the stakes are already piled high for Galway United and Sligo Rovers, who collide at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday evening (7.45pm ).
Despite producing some plucky performances, Shane Keegan’s United have registered two points from their opening five fixtures, while visitors Sligo have four from six. Those statistics ensure both teams are fully aware of how important this Corribside encounter will be.
On Monday United shaded a dull EA Sports Cup tie against a spirited Mayo League outfit with David Cawley and Vinny Faherty netting goals at the end of each half. It was United’s first competitive win of the year, though, and that provided Keegan with some encouragement ahead of the critical Sligo test.
“There is no point in saying otherwise, it is a fairly big game,” Keegan says about the upcoming tussle with Sligo. “The win over Mayo League is a help, it is a confidence builder. To get Vinny on the scoresheet and to win a game, to get both of those things done was good.
“The first half was frustrating, we weren't great, but there was a big improvement in the second half. That was without quite a few players who had little niggles and injuries, even Ronan [Murray] we gave him a bit of a breather on the sideline. We can take lots of positives and we have to be really looking forward to the Sligo game on Friday.
Huge, huge game
“The fact that it is a derby, the fact that we are both down at the bottom makes it a huge, huge game. I really should be redundant in a way, I shouldn't have to say a whole pile, if they aren't up for this one they never will be.”
United’s last League match was the St Patrick’s Day draw against Bohemians at Dalymount Park, Keegan’s team were defiant throughout in that particular fixture. “Absolutely, we should be happy with our performance against Bohs,” Keegan states.
“Sometimes I'm conscious of saying it because I might sound like I’m repeating myself, but the simple thing is, we have played five games and we could have eight points which is incredibly frustrating, but there is also a huge amount of positives in the sense that we are performing. There is a big difference sitting on two points and being poor, and sitting on two points knowing it should be an awful lot more.
“We do take the positives, but it is extremely frustrating. The big challenge for us is to keep our level of performance in the League, if we do that, we will get wins. The thing is what can happen is you can get drained and your performance can dip. If they keep the performance where it is, they will get rewarded.”
Injuries mean Gavan Holohan and Padraic Cunningham miss the Sligo test, while Alex Byrne is ruled out through suspension. Stephen Folan and Kevin Devaney are also rated doubtful. “We have a couple of little niggling injury concerns,” Keegan says. “Stevie Folan is 50-50, Kevin Devaney is 50-50. Stevie has a neck injury that is coming and going, something is causing an issue. Kev got a kick on the foot against Bohs, that was an impact injury, that is just lingering. The two of them are doubtful.
“Aaron Conway is a young player I think the world of, he probably would have got a start against Mayo, but he was suffering with a fever and flu so we are hoping he will be available.”