On an evening when it would have been all too easy to get carried away with your team’s third home league win on the trot, in front of the largest and most vocal home crowd of your tenure, thankfully Galway United boss Jeff Kenna was in no such mood to get ahead of himself after a scintillating performance by his squad.
“We haven’t achieved anything yet. We’ve got to remain focused. I think if we go to UCD with the wrong attitude, we’ll get beaten. So it’s my job to see that it doesn’t happen, that the players are aware of that.” No doubt Kenna will be drumming that message home to his players during the week, but he had every right to bask in the glow of a fine performance by his troops on Friday evening.
“I don’t know whether we wanted it more or not. But I certainly felt that we played a very, very professional game, stuck to our guns, kept passing the ball around, trying to create chances and obviously the early goal in the second half helped our cause no end. It was a case of obviously waiting to get the first goal, or certainly that’s what I felt.
“That was the message I was giving to the players at half time. Be patient, I actually thought one goal would win it. I wasn’t bothered about when it came as long as we were the ones that got it, so obviously to score so early in the second half was a big plus for us. They then had to change their system a bit and come after us. The game really opened up and I thought we were worthy winners in the end.”
Worthy winners they were indeed, sparked by Marc McCulloch’s second goal of the campaign which the manager could well have prevented had he let his thoughts at the time be known sooner. “I was about to tell him to get back. I didn’t know what he was doing in that position, but apparently he nicked in across the full back and finished it very nicely, so we’ll take that.”
Kenna was also happy that Alan Murphy had capped a good display with a goal in front of the home faithful, revealing the commitment to the cause of the Ballinrobe native. “Alan has been very unlucky not to be in the team. He was left out because he was cup-tied and then we hit a bit of form. He’s had to be very patient, he has been. His attitude has been excellent. I would say he’s actually been the best trainer in the last two months since he’s been out of the team. He’s been frustrated but obviously he’s taken his chance tonight with a goal that capped a very good performance.”
The 4-1 defeat in Cobh was once more mentioned as a turning point, and Kenna elaborated on the lengths they went to turn the club’s fortunes around. “That’s the lowest I’ve been after the Cobh game. It was the manner of the performance and you sort of look around and you think well, without being disrespectful to the younger lads in the squad, you’re asking them to come in and do a man’s job and it’s too much responsibility to put on young shoulders.
“We watched the video and we talked about it and we shouted at each other, fell out and made up. Lots of things have gone into getting us to where we are. I had a business coach come in to speak to the lads, we had a motivational speaker come in and followed it up six or eight weeks later. Every little bit helps, and as far as I’m concerned, anything at all to give you that extra edge is something you should be using.”
The former Blackburn defender has accomplished many things in his career, but he offered a glimpse as to the depth of significance with which he holds the current campaign in his response to a question about where guiding Galway United to survival would rank among his achievements. “Right up there with winning the Premier League. It’s my first job, I’ve only been here six or seven months, and we’ve had one or two difficulties along the way, so I’ll be made up if we can do it.”