Friday 20 October saw the heavily anticipated lifting of the League of Ireland First Division trophy by Galway United, preceded by a win against Wexford and accompanied with an electric crowd providing a canopy of racket and a presentation of pyro.
Fans of all ages had gathered in Eamonn Deacy Park to see the historic moment of the trophy being lifted. The match, which saw Wexford fans return home disappointed, started strong for Galway United with a goal from Wassim Auoachria five minutes in. The match ended with a 2-0 victory for United, bringing the team to a whopping 98 goals across the season. This also cemented their record of winning every home game during the season.
Had it not been broken, the scoreboard would have had a quiet second half, contrary to the loudness radiating from the stands. Chants from the crowd were atypically cordial, with GUFC fans promoting the versatility of Wexford produce, singing, “You can shove your Wexford strawberries up your a***”. Asserting Galway United’s place as a club with a conscience, throughout the match towards the back of Block F, there was an array of Palestinian flags, accompanied by chants of “Free! Free! Palestine!”.
After the final whistle blew came the ceremony of the trophy being lifted. Flags were waved triumphantly, with a backdrop of fans’ cheers bellowing. Ordinarily, thoughts occupying the minds of fans leaving Eamonn Deacy Park consist of ‘Where did I park my car?’, ‘where is the nearest pub?’, and of course, an assessment of the match. But on this day, whilst the former two thoughts remained pertinent, the latter was ousted by the question, ‘what’s next?’.
Next is, of course, the Premier Division. This means Galway United will be in for a much more formidable challenge than what fans have become accustomed to over the last year. In the FAI Cup semi-final, United lost to Bohemians, albeit by only one goal. In the Premier Division, Bohemians came sixth on the table. Given this, Galway United fans may be mistaken to be too optimistic for the year ahead.
Nevertheless, the club has faced financial hardships in the past, and Premier Division prizes are significantly more substantial than those for the First Division. The team will only have to place third in order to win a prize greater than that for coming first in the First Division. However, it is quite likely that money issues will be less of a concern than in previous years. This is because of the Galway United Co-op voting to give the Comer Brothers the option to buy an 85% stake in the club. Fans hope that this will lead to more investment in the club, which will make for a better team.
Galway United certainly has quite the challenge ahead of them. However, on the back of a successful season, which has brought in new fans of all ages, there’s a significant reason for hope and optimism to the zeitgeist in Terryland, in spite of the hellscape that is the Headford Road. When the next season begins, it is perfectly reasonable to expect it to begin in Galway with a fog of exuberance smothering the stands of Eamonn Deacy Park and an energy that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.