By Darren Casserly
For Galway United supporters, it has been a frustrating two years. From seeing a team who, on paper, should have been a mid-table side, get relegated in 2017 from the Premier Division, to a team that should have at least been challenging for promotion, fall apart last year. Going into the 2019 season, it felt like a massive step back in ambitions for a team who, a few months previous, was reportedly on the brink of being bought by a Saudi Arabian millionaire. It has felt somewhat of a free fall, seeing huge changes in the squad season to season, with only two players remaining from the 2017 season – a huge problem for any squad.
There has been a trend of huge turnover of players at the club year on year and continued into this season, with Alan Murphy being appointed permanent manager. This coincided with the departure of 13 first team players, which created, at least from a fan’s perspective, a culture of mercenaries, who only stay at a club for a season or two before moving on to the next club and care little, if anything, for the club. However, one of the differences in the recruitment this season, in comparison with others, was that the majority of players were unknown quantities, such as Shane Doherty and Ivan Gamarra, from the USA and Argentina, respectively. These signings did not inspire much hope in the Galway faithful for promotion this season. The opening results, losing 3-2 to league favourites Shelbourne and a 4-0 trouncing of Wexford, gave fans more hope for the coming season. This hope, however, was not transferred into wins, as successive defeats restored many fans pessimism for the season.
These inconsistent and disappointing results ensured that, for the most part, this season has been a write off and looking back, it’s hard to see how it could have turned out any different. There has, however, been a change of fortunes over the last couple of months, both on and off the pitch for Galway. Off the pitch, there’s the renewed support of the Comer brothers, who have the clubs main sponsor since 2014, and along with this, they have made a 40-acre site in Athenry, which they intend to develop into a training facility available to Galway. On the pitch, there has been a stark improvement in results, following the signing of several new players, including Killian Brouder, who has been a been a key player in the Limerick defence. The team as a whole has improved dramatically and it seems that Murphy has finally figured out his starting eleven, and this has shown in three victories on the bounce for the first time this season. The victory against a heavily favoured Cork City side particularly being the undoubted highlight of the season, a 1-0 win that didn’t even show off the dominance of the performance from the Tribesmen, that could have easily been 3 or 4 nil.
There is undoubted potential in the side that Alan Murphy has put together and the improvements that some of the players have made this season, most notably Donal Higgins and Conor Melody, who were key factors in the victory over Cork. Next for the Tribesmen this season will be a tie at home to Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup, which will surely test the character of Alan Murphy’s side and give an indication of where this team is.