Comings and goings as Caulfield shapes the squad to take on the Premier Division challenge

John Caulfield

John Caulfield

Galway United may have returned to the pitch only last week in advance of their first Premier Division campaign since 2017, but the sense in talking to manager John Caulfield is that preparations are well underway.

Caulfield brimmed with enthusiasm when asked about preparations in the New Year, saying: ‘They’ve all been doing programmes with Danny Broderick (Strength & Conditioning Coach ). In pre-season we are straight into the football because of the fitness levels of the players and they have already done 5 or 6 weeks fitness work.

We’ve been in the last week. It is always exciting with a new season. We have retained the squad that we wanted. We have brought in new players as well. We are integrating new players into the squad.’

Pre-Season

Caulfield confirmed the itinerary for his side who will play six pre-season games in total, five of which on the road. United will the short trip to Limerick this Saturday to take on Treaty United at 3pm in the Markets Fields.

Following this, they will travel to Fermoy on Tuesday January 16, where they will face Cork City at 3pm. They continue their southern sojourn with a game in Killarney that kicks off on Thursday the 18th at 7pm.

There is then some respite before United play Sligo Rovers in Westport for the second successive season. That game is slated for Sunday January 28 and will be in aid of charity.

They make a final pre-season trip to Longford on Saturday February 3. The pre-season concludes with a home game in Eamonn Deacy Park against Wexford on February 9.

New Arrivals

The games will be a chance for United fans to get a first glimpse of the new signings made. The manager spoke highly of the character and qualities of the new additions.

"Initially, we were trying to get some players that would have been playing in the Premier Division. The two obvious ones were Garry Buckley and Karl O’ Sullivan.

"I know Buckley very well. He came through the ranks at Cork and ended up in Sligo. He is a very experienced player and a very good player. He played in midfield for Cork but his natural position probably is centre-back. He is a very good reader of the game. He is a winner.

"O’ Sullivan is a natural wide player. This was an area we needed to address. Ronan Manning picked up a few injuries last season and we needed some other options there. We expect Ronan back shortly.

"O’ Sullivan burst on to the scene at 18. He is only 24. He has tremendous pace and is very direct. I think our supporters are going to love watching him.

"Gaxha was the standout player for Kerry last year. He is only 21 but he is tenacious and very good on the ball. He is a very good addition to the squad.

"Hickey is very strong in the air. He can play in the middle or at the back. He has been doing really well in training. They are all guys with great attitudes and very similar in mentality to the guys that were there.

"There are still a couple more that will come in. We are in advanced talks. In modern football it is quite a prolonged process. We are close to another couple."

Loan Departures

As the squad takes shape and is bolstered with experience, there are inevitably outgoings. Though United had Wilson Waweru and Mikie Rowe out on loan at various points last season, loaning out remains a relatively novel concept for United. It is a system that Caulfield has experience in and believes in. He believes the loan of Steven Healy and Daire McCarthy to Kerry FC and David Tarmey to Treaty United will reap dividends.

"I was very familiar with doing this in my previous club, particularly with guys going to Cobh (from Cork City ). It was how to bridge through and develop guys quicker.

"It worked really well for me with a number of players. A number of them came back into the first team and we ultimately sold a number on to England. It is a great education for them.

"We are in the Premier Division. It is a much higher level. These guys have had a lot of games in the Under-19s. Our feeling was the best scenario was for them to test themselves in senior football and thankfully we had a number of clubs who were looking for these lads.

"The lads will train full-time with us. They get the experience of gym training and full-time training and they get to go and play matches in the First Division. Hopefully these lads will have a big impact with their clubs, will learn very quick and the plan is that they come back in June or at the end of the season as better players, able to play in the Premier Division.

"We are trying to bring players through from our academy. The problem is people think you can just go from underage football straight into the first team. They don’t understand the gap, they don’t understand the physicality, pace or quickness of thinking."

Difficult Market

All of this activity has taken place against the backdrop of a challenging market. The United manager highlighted the challenges in recruitment faced in a strengthening division.

"The big thing in the market is that all the Dublin teams are exceptionally strong. As a result, they have a high financial prowess. Drogheda have had a takeover from Walsall, Fleetwood have done a takeover of Waterford. All of these clubs have become very financially aggressive. You then have Derry who are probably the second biggest spenders outside of Shamrock Rovers.

"This has all made the market in Ireland really tough. The amount of work that has been done is phenomenal. On lots of occasions we had to leave deals because financially we felt it was too much.

"People will say we have the Comers sponsoring us but out of diligence and business when a valuation becomes much more than you believe is right you can’t be silly with money. There were a number of deals we walked away from because the money became, because of what they were offered by other clubs, way outside of what we were comfortable with.

"Because of this you end up looking at the European market or markets abroad which is more challenging because in Ireland you have a good idea of a player and a character. With an outside player, you have to do a lot more work and it takes a lot more time.

"If you end up with the right guy, there is much more value abroad. The obvious example is Vince Borden. It worked out really well, it was a great deal for him and us. The next couple of players that come in will come in from abroad."

United fans will hope these players can match the immediate impact made by Borden last season. They will be encouraged that the club remain in the market while quietly confident that the nucleus of last season’s side can continue the form that carried the club to promotion.

 

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