Drogheda United 1
Galway United 1
The Eircom League really can be an unusual environment. Galway United went into the champions Drogheda United backyard, plundered a point, but left with a certain element of dissatisfaction. It was that kind of odd sporting evening as Galway experienced the full gamut of emotions. Jonathan Keane’s sixth-minute goal brought hope, but that optimism had fizzled out by the night’s conclusion as news filtered through the County Louth air about Finn Harps exploits at the Carlisle Grounds. Ultimately 2008 has been a luckless year for the troubled Tribesmen. Even when Galway perform it is rendered insubstantial by events elsewhere.
So stylish in the opening period, Galway were pegged back after the interval, but encouragingly showed a resourcefulness to divide the spoils with an expensively assembled Drogs’ side.
When times are tough character is required. A cool night on the banks of the Boyne when performing against an outfit sprinkled with guileful footballers tests the resolve of any club. And in the second half Galway, under crushing pressure, survived to eke out a result which was commendable. Heart and honesty must be demonstrated if a team wishes to clamber off the foot of the table.
Whatever occurs after that is the subject of deliberation and debate, but it is between the white chalk lines that Galway intend to deliver. Usually an Eircom League player of consequence possesses a bit of grit and that is exactly what Galway paraded.
A ripple of surprise greeted the team announcements as Jeff Kenna opted for the same starting XI for the third match on the bounce. There was a certain apprehension about how a narrow Galway midfield could cope as the decorated duo, Richie Baker and Ollie Cahill, patrolled the flanks with full backs Brian Shelley and Joe Kendrick regarded for their positive intentions.
Still Galway’s system appropriately garnered plaudits in their previous two matches and Jay O’Shea’s bearing shouldn’t be underestimated. Unsurprisingly it was O’Shea’s dashing approach that unnerved the natives as Galway made a delightful start.
Even before Jonathan Keane rattled the Drogheda net a half dozen minutes in, it was Galway who were all urgent aggression. The goal emanated from a firm Ciaran Foley run and cross that was headed away by Shaun Maher to Jonathan Keane, who proceeded to make the sweetest of volleyed connections and the ball looped over Jamie Ewings. Was a seismic shock possible?
The remainder of the first quarter augured well for Galway, who continued to provide plenty of bark in the centre of the park where Ciaran Foley and John Lester’s mettle was vexing the strangely subdued hosts. A blistering Lester 35-yard free kick stung Ewings’ fingertips as Galway sought to bag a second.
On the half hour Galway stitched a glorious move together as Lester, Jesper Jorgensen, and O’Shea were involved prior to John Russell fizzing an effort over the bar from an acute angle. It was a neat necklace of passes confirming the conviction that was dripping from Galway’s challenge.
Having witnessed Galway deliver the vast chunk of the imaginative football the locals were becoming agitated and by the time the interval rolled around Jonathan Keane’s intervention still separated the protagonists.
Inevitably Drogheda, so shoddy initially, improved in the third quarter as they attempted to locate a way back into the contest. Depriving O’Shea of space was one of their ploys while Drogs’ much vaunted central duo Paul Keegan and Robinson suddenly started to match Foley and Lester.
It wasn’t as if Drogheda were at full pelt, though, as Robinson joined Richie Baker, Faz Kudozovic, and Brian Shelley on the yellow card list when his petulance was eventually punished in the 52nd minute after being on the edge of several incidents.
Paul Doolin wasn’t content with Drogs’ display, summoning Adam Hughes from the bench, and the threat swelled. Hughes extracted a smashing save from Gary Rogers, while Brian Shelley also went close as Drogheda looked for a leveller which eventually arrived on 64.
Zayed nodded home a Baker cross after being released by the effective Shelley who was thundering forward at every available opportunity. The majority of the action was being played deep in Galway territory, but Drogs were struggling to prise open a hearty defence.
Though Galway’s attacks were infrequent now, Lester and substitute Alan Murphy carved another chance for Russell, who was thwarted by a Ewings save as the joust entered the final furlong.
Thereafter Galway’s mission was to cling on for a draw. And to their immense credit Galway survived a string of late Drogheda flurries. How consequential this addition to the account becomes will be determined in November.
Drogheda United: Ewings; Shelley, Maher, Gartland, Kendrick; Baker, Keegan, Robinson, Cahill; Kudozovic (Hughes, 59 ), Zayed.
Galway United: Rogers; Conneely, A Keane, Fitzgerald, McCulloch; J Keane (Murphy, 63 ), Foley, Lester; O’Shea, Russell; Jorgensen.
Referee: I Stokes (Dublin ).