There’s something in the air in Galway City. A football renaissance led by a man who’s rebuilt the greatest of Irish footballing empires. Since John Caulfield’s arrival at Eamon Deacy Park, Galway United’s fortunes have been drastically altered, from the despair of languishing in the first division of Irish Football, many refused to believe that a time may come, where they could re-join Irelands elite. But United evolved as a compact side, mixed with the correct blend of youth and experience, which helped to bring them all the way to the anguish and despair of being ninety minutes away from the ultimate goal of promotion. It’s been a journey of optimism and excitement for the maroon army faithful, with many pundits believing that this may be the year in which Galway dine at the table of the Irish footballing elite.
One of Galway’s key players last season will look to play a substantial role in the fight for the title. He is the electrifying Wilson Waweru. Leading the line last year for the tribesmen, Waweru is a product of the Galway United academy. As well as being a huge fan favourite, he is only improving as a striker, a position in which Galway have introduced added firepower to aid Waweru. One of them is Francely Lomboto, who missed last season with a broken leg, and in pre-season, has looked a striker who’s reborn. With a point to prove, the potential of both Waweru and Lomboto linking up this season has fans salivating, and with new strikers Jordan Adeyemo and Manu Dias also shining in pre-season, Caulfield will be spoilt for options up front.
One of the major points noted during the transfer window was Caulfield’s shrewd ability to not only replace departing players, but to add new blood and quality to a squad on the precipice of their ultimate goal. Diego Portilla is one of those players. Portilla impressed many supporters in pre-season, oozing class, composure and bringing sophistication to a dynamic back line, with a potential link up with wonderkid Alex Murphy helping to drive home the philosophy that defences win titles.
In a division where no game is easy, there will be many familiar rivals for Galway on their quest for promotion. Firstly, Waterford, who lost the relegation playoff, will be eager to bounce right back up to the premier division after gradually slipping into a relegation battle. Ironically enough, Galway’s biggest test will be against Cork City, a team who have been going toe to toe with the men in maroon for both playoff spots and the title in the past few years. These two games are the first games of the season for Galway United, giving the division an explosive start, and sets the tone for a memorable season. John Caulfield’s undeniable connection to Cork City gives these games an extra layer of intrigue and, ironically, Cork’s most famous adopted son could be the man who puts them to the sword, an ousted rebel who assembled his own footballing tribe.
To conclude, I feel that this can be the season in which Galway can make a serious challenge for the title. Since Galway got relegated in 2017, they never really looked capable of promotion, with flickers of hope through the play-offs, they never looked like a team who could stay in the premier division should they have gotten the promotion. However, through sheer grit, passion, and the rise of attendance figures in Eamon Deacy Park, you have to wonder, will this be the birth of a new Irish footballing giant?