New-look Galway United open campaign against familiar foes

Though time may have stood still for many Galway United fans since their play-off exit to Waterford FC in November, the landscape has shifted significantly since.

Galway United start a fresh campaign tomorrow with an old familiar challenge, an arduous journey north to face relegated Finn Harps.

Since their play-off exit to Waterford FC in November, United have a revamped management team with Ollie Horgan joining John Caulfield’s as an assistant, while Chris Collopy has also been added as first-team coach.

The management team has added significant ballast to their playing ranks. Particularly eye-catching have been the returns of defenders Colm Horgan and Maurice Nugent, and the signings of Brendan Clarke, Regan Donelon, Vincent Borden and Darren Clarke.

The Tribesemen renew rivalries with a similarly revamped Finn Harps. Horgan’s replacement, Dave Rogers, has arrived from Nottingham Forest eager to impress and to introduce full-time football to Donegal. He has spoken positively about implementing a new style and structure to Harps.

Friday will be its first big test. There are many sub-plots surrounding the fixture, but Ollie Horgan switching dugouts is sure to dominate the narrative. United fans will hope the Galway man can enjoy another famous night in Finn Park, but this time as a visitor.

As always, it will need to be done the hard way in Ballybofey. United did not escape pre-season unscathed. Question marks remain over the fitness of Maurice Nugent, Conor McCormack, Darren Clarke and Stephen Walsh for the trip north as none managed an uninterrupted pre-season.

Despite these concerns, manager John Caulfield says it is now all about a performance.

"Our conditioning is good. We learned a lot in pre-season," he says."There is a lot of our play that we are really excited about. Ultimately, for us it is about going up and giving a performance.

"Finn Harps have brought in very good players. They have kept good players from last year. Ryan Rainey is a very talented player. They have brought back Keith Cowan and they have also got in a lot of players on loan. They play a lot of ball and are also well able to mix the long-ball with the short-ball."

Last season was held by many to be one of the strongest first divisions on record, and Caulfield believes it has only improved.

"While we feel our recruitment is good and we are stronger than last year, we also recognise other clubs have invested heavily this season. It looks like all the clubs have strengthened."

Undoubtedly, many challenges lie ahead. The inclusion of Kerry FC means this season will have 36 regular season games, a fact that may favour the more professional set-ups like those in Galway. It will also remain a task to unite Galway behind its national league team.

Much hurt and disappointment existed after the play-off exit last season. These were discussed at length in a couple of Q&A sessions held by Caulfield. Whatever the recriminations about last season, attendees would have been stirred by the fire and passion of Caulfield man.

These emotions will not be lacking in his squad or in the greeting they receive in Finn Park on Friday. They should not be wanting either on Friday week in Eamonn Deacy Park as another big opportunity for United begins.

New French signing

Galway United has signed striker Ibrahim Keita ahead of this weekend's 2023 season opening.

The 6ft 2in striker has League of Ireland experience, having played for Finn Harps under Galway United's assistant manager Ollie Horgan in the 2017 season.

The 27-year-old French striker, who joins United as a free agent after a successful trial period in pre-season, represented his country at U16 level. He started his career at Wolves, progressing through their academy teams to the first-team squad.

Well travelled, he has enjoyed spells in Greece, Slovakia, and Czech Republic side Bohemians Praha 1905.

Speaking to the club's media team at his unveiling, Ibrahim said is is delighted to join Galway United.

"I've been here for two weeks now, I'm really appreciating my teammates, the coaching staff and the environment I'm in right now. I've heard the fans are really, really good, I'm looking forward to giving them some great moments to cheer."

 

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