Dundalk's visit will test United's credentials

Big nights under the lights are coming back to Terryland. After six seasons in the doldrums, Galway United have cut through the first division with ruthless efficiency.

It ensures that next season visits from the country’s top teams will once again become the norm with United re-establishing itself as a top-flight team.

Tomorrow night’s FAI Cup quarter-final clash against Dundalk is more than a dress rehearsal for the Dyke Road - it is the biggest game the team will play so far this season in front of the biggest crowd.

The opportunity for United is enormous - a home draw to secure a semi-final in a competition with three of the country’s top five teams already eliminated.

None of the excitement should downplay the scale of the challenge. Despite two chastening defeats in the league, Dundalk are pushing for Europe in the league and cup. Four points behind fourth-placed Bohs in the league, they may feel the FAI Cup is their best route.

Given this, a massive game for both teams awaits. Dundalk’s challenge has a strong Galway spine. Stephen O’Donnell is one of the most highly thought of young coaches in the domestic game, and won the cup in 2021 with St Patrick’s Athletic.

After achieving European football in his first season with Dundalk, his side has floundered somewhat of late in a tight and tough premier division. He does have Loughrea talisman Patrick Hoban on whom to rely. From a gifted sporting family, Hoban broke the Louth club’s all-time goalscoring record earlier this season.

Dundalk received a massive mid-season boost with the unlikely capture of Daryl Horgan who returned from England.

Having been capped as a full international as recently as 2021, Horgan brings experience and tenacity to the Dundalk attack. He has already shone in his second stint for the club, scoring the winner in the previous round against Bray.

United are unlikely to be overawed, and come into the tie on the cusp of clinching the first division title. Another glorious night on the road last Friday, when they downed Bray Wanderers 4-1, brought that reality a step closer.

Having been rested the previous weekend, Stephen Walsh provided another reminder of his class and craft with a hat-trick in the Carlisle Grounds.

The 4-1 result may have somewhat flattered United, who scored twice in second-half injury time. Walsh had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute with an instinctive reaction after David Hurley’s shot had been blocked. Hurley notched another penalty in the second half to re-establish the lead after Harry Groome had equalised for Bray with a magnificent solo effort. And late on, Francely Lomboto did well to hold the ball up and lay it off to Walsh who drilled home his second to make sure of the points.

The icing was added when another sub, Aodh Dervin, got to the byline and squared for Walsh who tapped home with delight.

The metrics and the mood could not be any more positive for John Caulfield’s men going into this game. Regan Donelon and Ronan Manning were the notable absentees from last Friday, but the depth of the squad is proven.

There is quality and a strong mentality in this squad that has dragged them over the line previously. A raucous home support might just tip the scales enough for a famous night.

 

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