The League of Ireland makes a welcome return tomorrow, and two Galway clubs will be anxious to make positive statements on the first night of competitive action in 2009.
Intrigue is attached to both fixtures. In the premier division Galway United’s away clash with Jeff Kenna’s St Patrick’s Athletic (7.45pm ) is peppered with tasty sub-plots, while in division one Mervue United’s first match as a senior club at home in Terryland Park (7.45pm ) to Athlone Town will be monitored with interest.
Galway’s testing trip to Inchicore ought to be revealing as Ian Foster’s new look team crave a positive start to the campaign. In the past two seasons Galway have struggled in the spring, but an efficient opening is needed, according to skipper Jay O’Shea.
“With so many players having changed clubs, and obviously our old gaffer being over Pat’s now, it should be a good and lively game. I cannot wait to get started now for the new season because it is important we make a good start. We went on a long unbeaten run towards the end of the year and that really was the difference for us between staying up and being relegated.”
Galway intend to find such a level of consistency early in the year and they are likely to set up in a 4-5-1 formation. Barry Ryan will make his competitive start between the sticks, while the back four is expected to include two debutants, Shane Guthrie and Gary Breen at centre half, with Séamus Conneely and Iarlaith Daveron stationed in the full back roles.
Further up the pitch O’Shea and Derek O’Brien may be given wide berths, with Sean Kelly, Michael McGrath, and Dave Cooke forming a three-man central unit. Following an enterprising pre-season Vinny Faherty may be asked to plough a lone furrow, but he will certainly receive support from O’Shea and O’Brien.
There is enough ability in that Galway side to examine a Pat’s team that are intent on making a push for honours. A safe and solid first 45 minutes is imperative for Galway, and if this is achieved, anything could happen at Richmond Park, a venue in which critical victories have been delivered in the past two years.
A winning League of Ireland bow is within Mervue United’s remit at Terryland Park as Johnny Glynn’s charges entertain Athlone Town.
Glynn is relishing the opportunity to guide Mervue at an elevated level. “The lads are looking forward to the game. There is no point really in shying away from the fact that it is a big game either. It is an historic occasion, but we are trying to treat it the same as any other game really, that is the intention anyway.
“I think the players see that we are trying to do things right and that is important. Our players aren’t being paid, so it is important they are looked after properly and the trip to Spain was very beneficial for us for many reasons. Obviously we got some good, tough training done, but also it worked as a team-building exercise too. And the fact that the players helped raise so much money by helping organise fundraisers added to the team building process.”
Recent recruit Nigel Keady is an injury doubt, while Damien O’Rourke, Ollie Keogh, and Philip Ryan are all ruled out.
Glynn watched Athlone face Shamrock Rovers last Sunday and believes that was a useful work-out for the midlanders.
“I saw Athlone play Shamrock Rovers last Sunday and Rovers were very sharp. I feel that Athlone will have got a lot from that game because Rovers were so sharp and they will have benefited from the match. They still have some good players available and any team with the likes of Des Hope, Robbie Hamm, Damien Rushe, and Noel McGee has to be respected.”
Mervue have bravely earned the right to be considered valued opponents too and enter this Terryland tussle quietly confident of announcing their arrival with a notable result.