Galway United frustrated after another play-off loss

Galway United succumbed to a classy Waterford FC side in Markets Field on an evening that encapsulated the frustrations for Galway United supporters.

That up to 1,500 Galway people travelled to an away match, perhaps the most since Lansdowne in 1991, spoke to the positivity and hope being cultivated around the club. But that after many had dispersed, some jeered the manager while others stood bewildered at full-time, speaking of the old familiar pains of loss and division.

The contradictions were everywhere on the night. United’s most trusted keeper for many years, Conor Kearns, had a momentary lapse to allow Waterford FC a precious early lead. As he trudged off the field at full-time, he offered the travelling fans an apology. The roar of support he received, an appreciation of his prior performances and character, proved that it was unnecessary.

Max Hemmings, who threatened throughout with fine crosses and willing running, was caught out by a botched clearance which created Waterford’s second. Stephen Walsh, a man who embodies the best characteristics of Galway United this season, missed a penalty that would have brought his side right back into contention.

Junior Quitirna’s second, and Waterford FC’s third, merely confirmed the inevitable. A gutsy and honest performance was not enough.

The rancour at full-time suggested it was not enough either for some of the travelling contingent, frustrated at a third consecutive exit at the play-off stage and a looming sixth season in the first division.

Despite the disappointment, there should be some comfort and consensus around the work being carried out at all levels of the football club. The academy, the fruition of the stated ambition to provide Galway players the chance to be their best against the best, continues to perform. To prove that point, the U14s contested a national final less than 24 hours after this defeat, but they unfortunately fell just short too, losing 1-0 to Shamrock Rovers.

The work of volunteers to co-ordinate seven buses to Limerick, and the committed work of the board somehow managed to attract a crowd of nearly 3,000 to Terryland for a dead rubber game against Athlone Town. The support of the sponsors and prospective owners means Galway United will field a record eight teams across men’s and women’s senior and underage teams next season.

Though they faltered in league and play-offs, the players, staff and management leave 2022 with their integrity intact. They have given moments of joy, particularly in the first half of the season, recording famous wins on the road in Cork and Waterford.

They have represented the shirt with pride, and fought until the end. Yet some genuine fans are disenchanted, longing for more success and entertainment, and that the failure to achieve promotion in the last three seasons is unacceptable.

Yet these views can be counterbalanced when recognition is given to the calibre of opposition during this time; that winning runs were put together in previous seasons, and there is pride in the professionalism instilled by management.

 

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