It was once claimed that League of Ireland fans exist on the fringes of mainstream society, and for many years, Galway United existed on the fringes of the League of Ireland. When I went to my first Galway United match, United lost 6-0. Fortunately, winning has never been a requirement for Galway United fans, but it nevertheless is a welcome change.
After a 4-0 win over Kerry FC, on 22 September, Galway United secured enough of a lead over Waterford to ensure they could not be caught in this year’s race for the first division title. This comes after an exceptional season, in which 89 league goals were scored and only 16 conceded, winning every game they played in their home ground, Eamon Deacy Park.
This means that the Galway United men’s team will escape purgatory and return to the Premier Division for the first time since 2017. The women’s team also had an incredibly successful season, winning the inaugural All-Island Cup.
Notorious match programme purveyor, Ronan Coleman, said, “the general perception amongst the League of Ireland community is that the Premier Division is not as strong as in previous years, so the expectation is high amongst Galway United fans that we will do well in 2024.” This means that the club could be setting their sights on qualifying for Europe.
United’s successful season, for both the men’s team and the women’s team, comes off the back of significant investment from the Comer Brothers. Last year, the Galway United Co-op voted to allow the sale of 85% of the club’s shares to the Comer Brothers. The Comer Brothers have yet to decide to exercise this option.
The improvement in investment has had obvious consequences. When walking into Eamonn Deacy Park, one does not even need to watch the match to know how well United is doing. The cacophony of fans singing, channels an energy and optimism which Terryland hasn’t seen since the Celtic Tiger. This incredible enthusiasm has been aided by the opening of a bar in Eamonn Deacy Park in recent years.
With League of Ireland attendance increasing generally, United now having two Premier Division teams could lead to even greater attendance at Eamonn Deacy Park, which in turn, will generate more investment for the club, through ticket and merchandise sales.
Whilst the €36,200 prize for winning in the First Division isn’t particularly massive, the club only has to come third in the men’s Premier Division to make more than that (although prize money for coming first in the women’s Premier Division is only €12,000).
Either way, prize money from winning domestically won’t be where the club’s accountants will be drawing focus to. However, should the club qualify for Europe, the prize money becomes a lot more significant, and many supporters will already be looking at Ryanair flights with an excitement only otherwise seen in children waking up on Christmas morning and dogs about to be brought out for a walk.