United to face table-toppers Waterford

Aodh Dervin of Galway United celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division match between Dundalk and Galway United at Oriel Park in Dundalk, Louth. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Aodh Dervin of Galway United celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division match between Dundalk and Galway United at Oriel Park in Dundalk, Louth. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Galway United’s Premier Division campaign roared into life last Friday with a thundering performance in Oriel Park. The positive result was brought about through brilliant goals from wingers Ed McCarthy and Aodh Dervin.

Dervin was involved in both. He clipped a ball around the corner for David Hurley to run onto in the 10th minute. The Corkman then sprinted to the by-line and squared to McCarthy who shot home for an early 1-0 lead.

It would be 2-0 inside the half hour mark. Regan Donelon curled in a trademark delivery. The impish Dervin made a clever run across the box and from 15 yards out, he lifted his header to the far corner for a stunning goal.

These majestic moments were a fitting reward for a performance that brimmed with intensity. In the opening exchanges, United won their battles and exerted themselves all over the pitch. Their play always had purpose and there were slick interchanges throughout.

Manager John Caulfield hailed his players application, saying ‘From my experience of going to Oriel Park, you know you are going to have to work your socks off. To be fair to the squad, we went up with a great attitude and a positive mindset. We got two great goals and probably created more chances up there than we ever have. Based on the previous week where we struggled to break Pat’s down, it was great to create those chances against Dundalk.’

His side showed character too to withstand difficult moments. Brendan Clarke kept Dundalk at bay with a few sharp saves either side of half-time. His back four were more than capable when dealing with Dundalk's deliveries.

Yet despite the home team’s threat, United were rampant going forward. On top of their goals, they hit the post three times and spurned two one-on-one chances with the goalkeeper.

When Killian Brouder’s header came off back off the post late on, it was amidst a growing confidence that United would claim the points regardless. Clarke made certain of this when making another agile save in injury time.

He is likely to be called into action when free scoring Waterford come to town. There is plenty of history between the two promoted sides who jousted in the First Division in the past two seasons. Waterford have maintained the core of their First Division squad from last season.

They have introduced real talent to their squad in veteran striker Pádraig Amond. Darragh Leahy and Kacper Radkowski add plenty of Premier Division quality at the back. Maleace Asamoah arrives from Fleetwood with a number of appearances under his belt and has made an immediate impression, scoring in a creditable draw with Shelbourne.

Caulfield praised the start of Keith Long’s side. ‘Looking at them, we think they’re stronger than last season. They’ve changed their system. They play 5 at the back as opposed to 4. The brought Pádraig Amond back from the UK which is a major signing. Asamoah on-loan from Fleetwood is a dynamic player. They brought [Darragh] Leahy in from Dundalk and Kacper Radkowski from Bohs. They have strength now in that area.’

From a United perspective, much of the pre-match conversation prior to Dundalk was on the enforced absences. Stephen Walsh and Wassim Aouachria seemingly left a chasm at centre-forward. Buckley’s injury would deprive them of experience at the heart of the defence.

Yet the changes could scarcely have worked better. Karl O’Sullivan proved himself more than a worthy deputy in Dundalk, always showing as a willing runner and knitting the play very well. Aodh Dervin came into the side and was everywhere, providing real graft and quality. Rob Slevin slotted in beside Killian Brouder as well as he had done in 2023.

However, home form is likely to be a critical factor this season. The next three fixtures will be played in Eamonn Deacy Park on consecutive Fridays, so it is already an important time in the season.

 

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