Galway United’s campaign thunders into life as they kick Dundalk to the curb

Galway United announced themselves onto the Premier Division stage with a 2-0 away win at Dundalk last Friday night. United put on a resolute, but ruthless display as they penetrated Dundalk’s high line with class and incisiveness. Goals from Ed McCarthy and Aodh Dervin secured a victory that leaves John Caulfield’s side in fifth place, just one point off league leaders Waterford, who they play next at Eamonn Deacy Park.

The feeling leaving Eamonn Deacy Park after their season opener defeat to St. Pats was one of disappointment, yet there was a glimmer of optimism that with a few tweaks this Galway United team have the physicality and quality to compete with every team in the division. This victory felt like a real ‘we’ve arrived’ moment.

Stepehen Walsh’s controversial red card left Caulfield with a selection headache. The experienced Cork manager opted for Karl O’Sullivan to lead the line, supported by Ed McCarthy and Aodh Dervin on the wings. The midfield three remained the same, but there was one key alteration – David Hurley was higher up the pitch.

The positioning of Hurley, the inclusion of Dervin, and the hold-up play of O’Sullivan were integral to the implementation of a game plan expertly designed to penetrate possession-based, aggressive defending opposition. Two excellently-worked goals, striking the woodwork three times, and two one-on-one chances squandered highlight a rampant attacking performance by the away side.

Caulfield got his team selection right, there were raised eyebrows and questions upon the release of the team sheets, but United’s manager proved his worth. Both United goals were clear examples of the game plan – stretch the defence, constant movement in behind, and quick, incisive passing through the lines.

Allowing Hurley the freedom to get into areas of influence is of upmost importance for United this season. It took just ten minutes for Galway’s number ten to stamp his authority on proceedings, as he drifted in behind Dundalk’s high line to square the ball perfectly for McCarthy to tap home. United had lift off, sparking an ecstatic away crowd into celebration.

Arguably of equal importance is shoehorning Dervin into this team. The midfielder’s evasive dribbling was instrumental to the Tribesmen’s success last season. Caulfield placed him on the right-wing, where Dervin’s impact was typified by his direct involvement in both goals. It was the tricky winger that slipped the ball through to Hurley for the first goal. On the half-hour mark, Regan Donelan received the ball out on the left flank. To catch Dundalk’s intense defending out, the left back got the ball out from under his feet early and swung in an inch-perfect cross. Dervin’s run from out to in was timed beautifully, and he flicked a looping header over George Shelvey into the top corner. A wonderfully executed goal, and no less than United deserved for their purposeful performance in the first half.

'From that point on victory never looked in doubt'

The Tribesmen remained resolute throughout, sitting in a low-block and sucking up pressure before springing into fluid and rampant counter-attacks.

Karl O’Sullivan led the line for United superbly. He worked tirelessly, constantly stretching the Dundalk backline and knitting the play together. He was extremely unlucky to not cap off his performance with a goal, but the former Sligo Rovers man gave the Galwegian fans plenty to be optimistic about going forward.

If Galway United are to be successful this season, the attacking players finding the back of the net consistently will be vital. The signs from last Friday’s game are positive, now United must maintain this level of fluidity and panache in their attacking patterns.

This season will be long and tough. Every team in the division can take points off anyone, therein lies the excitement in the Premier Division right now. Waterford will be a stubborn test for Caulfield’s team who will be determined to get up and running at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night.

Galway United have arrived, now it is about building momentum and climbing the table.


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