By Darren Casserly
For Galway United it was a season of what ifs. The season started brightly with a 4-1 victory over Athlone Town, but ended with a dismal 3-0 defeat at the hands of Shelbourne. On paper, it looked like Galway were one of the favourites to challenge for the title, but titles aren’t won on paper.
Galway had lost many key players in the offseason following relegation, such as captain Colm Horgan and top scorer Ronan Murray. However, United were able to hold on to experienced players such as Marc Ludden and Gary Shanahan and add quality players like former captain Ryan Connolly and commanding centre – half Robbie Williams.
This quality led to Galway starting off the season winning three out of their first four matches. Unfortunately, the early season form slowly started to unravel as Galway were unable to find consistency in their performance as they failed to close out games. Undoubtedly the performance of the season came against eventual champions UCD, impressively winning 2-0, showing a glimpse into the potential of the squad.
Old habits returned as United failed to win in six of the following seven matches. This culminated in the dismissal of manager Shane Keegan. Off the field, a story broke that two Saudi businessmen were interested in a surprising takeover of the club.
The story, broke by Galway’s own Johnny Ward, garnered national attention and sparked hope for United fans that the season could be saved. The takeover seemed even more possible when the Galway supporters’ co – op, who own the club, voted in favour of accepting the investment.
However, the investment, much like United’s season, didn’t go to plan as the deal fell through. Supporters felt betrayed and angry as many felt they were misled and sold false hope. Following this, United stalwart Alan Murphy was named player/manager and was given the near impossible task of getting United to the playoffs. He took charge with the season hanging in the balance.
In a press conference, Murphy said on being appointed;”I’d hope there will be a reaction with nine games left, I’ll be looking for performances.” The impact was clear to see with the Tribesmen winning three of the next four games. This was even more impressive given the lack of funds that were available to Murphy and the departure of two players from an already small squad.
Again, United showed inconsistency giving up a two-goal lead to playoff rivals Drogheda. At this point, any hope of promotion was gone, and it became more evident on the pitch with a shambolic 4-1 defeat at the hands of Longford.
One of the few bright sides of the disastrous last couple months of the season was the emergence of some promising young players for United. Murphy’s’ belief in youth was present in the match against Wexford where six teenagers started including three of the promising under 17 side.
For Galway United, it was a season to forget, with a promising start ending in disaster. One of the major disappointments of the season was player performance with experienced players like Ryan Connolly and marquee signing Danny Furlong constantly underperforming. Furlong failed to score any goals after April.
A long winter lies ahead for Galway United. Whilst there are many questions to be answered, the big one remains: who’s the man to bring Galway United forward and what backing will he get? If United have any hope of returning to the Premier Division, they need to get behind the next manager and trust him.
Photo by Hoops341 [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons