Scenes of celebration as United secure title with games to spare

Dreams come true: Galway United players celebrate after winning the SSE Airtricity men's first division match against Kerry at Mounthawk Park in Tralee, Kerry to seal their return to the premier division.

Dreams come true: Galway United players celebrate after winning the SSE Airtricity men's first division match against Kerry at Mounthawk Park in Tralee, Kerry to seal their return to the premier division.

It was a cathartic night in Tralee on Friday. After years of disappointments, Galway United, having taken the first division by storm, sealed the title with a 4-0 win over Kerry FC.

And in turn, their loyal supporters invaded the field at Mounthawk Park at full-time. Staff, players, officials, and fans all converged in celebration on the pitch while friends and families who have travelled the country together for decades embraced emotionally, having lived their shared dream.

Many have kept the United torch lit through lean years, but there is no doubting the current patriarch in the United family is John Caulfield - a manager who has driven standards across the club since his appointment.

Needing only one point at the outset, United attacked the game with a cool determination. When Wassim Auoachria used his considerable frame to rise highest and head home a corner in the first half, a special night was kickstarted.

It was a routine goal that will be remembered for its celebration. The Algerian sprinted to the away fans and hoisted himself into their ranks - the communion between team and fans has rarely been as strong.

United continued to probe and were mostly comfortable, but credit Kerry, they were eager to make it a contest and showed signs of their improvement both at the back and going forward.

The game meandered as the celebrations were starting in the corner. Stephen Walsh was felled in the box in the 73rd minute, allowing David Hurley to crash home another penalty.

There was still time for Francely Lomboto to get himself on the scoresheet and David Hurley to notch an incredible 21st of the season from midfield. A comfortable 4-0 win added the exclamation point on an unparalleled season.

There was jubilation at full-time as players were hoisted, champagne popped, songs were sung as friends old and new shared moments that will live long in the collective memory.

But it was back to work for the players on Monday and a cup semi-final - United having managed to negotiate the Finn Harps game at home on Monday with minimum fuss. The only sour note of the evening was the loss of Lomboto due to a nasty looking ankle injury, and his continued involvement in this famous season looks a forlorn hope.

Despite the setback, United were professional in their approach. Their slew of missed chances will be the abiding memory of the night for fans, many of whom were more preoccupied by the queue for semi-final tickets.

Rob Manley missed a number of early opportunities before sub Auoachria forced Harps defender Jamie Watson into an error, the defender inadvertently steering the ball into his own goal.

There would be myriad chances for Ed McCarthy, Stephen Walsh, David Hurley and Rob Slevin to extend the lead. It was not to be as Harps, although without a manager, stuck to their task admirably and limited the champions to a 1-0 win.

Nevertheless, the win maintained United’s 100 per cent record in Eamonn Deacy Park this season. It is a record that will come under threat tomorrow night with the visit of a dangerous Athlone Town side eager to secure their play-off berth.

The principal hope for United fans will be to avoid any further injuries before next week’s semi-final showdown with Bohemian FC.

 

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