Galway United are looking to bounce back at the first time of asking following relegation to the First Division.
Their campaign kicks off against local rivals Athlone Town on Friday night under the lights at Eamonn Deacy Park.
Despite losing the majority of their squad, including captain Colm Horgan to champions Cork City, Rory Hale to Derry City, Kevin Devaney to Bohemians and Stephen Folan and Ronan Murray to Dundalk, manager Shane Keegan has left no stone unturned in his quest to assemble a squad capable of returning to the top flight of Irish football, almost literally starting from scratch with a host of new faces.
Mayo man Ryan Connolly has returned to Deacy Park after a year away at Shamrock Rovers and he resumes his role as captain. The midfielder first joined the club in 2013 and has scored 12 goals in his 96 appearances to date.
Tadhg Ryan, Robbie Williams, Stephen Kenny, Stephen Walsh, Carlton Ubaezuonu, Arek Mamala, Conor Layng, Alan Murphy and Connor Gleeson have all joined the club for the forthcoming season.
They were joined by Galway United’s new number nine Danny Furlong who swapped New Zealand for the west after the 28-year-old decided to leave Southern United after two years away from Irish football.
Furlong has previous experience in guiding a club to the First Division title after helping Wexford Youths achieve their goal in 2015, netting 30 times in the process.
Galway United fans are also excited by the return of midfielder Alan Murphy who has scored 76 goals for the club and also manages the club’s under 17s.
The 36-year-old trails the clubs all-time top goalscorer Paul McGhee by one goal, a feat he will hope to surpass this coming season, 18 years after his debut for the club.
While relegation brings doom and gloom to those concerned there is a sense of optimism that Galway can challenge for the First Division title this season after playing some good football under Keegan despite the disappointing and frustrating ending to last season’s campaign.
The former Wexford Youths boss is entering his second season as manager at Deacy Park and has added Gary O’Connor to his backroom staff, coming in as assistant manager.
Keegan spoke to Galway United’s website about the forthcoming season and his excitement at landing Furlong, hoping the pair who worked together in the past can once again combine to have a successful season where promotion is the only goal.
“Danny is at an age now when his prime years are ahead of him, so I think we’re getting him at a good time.
“It’s a very different and new challenge for him, obviously we know each other inside out, we had that fantastic year where we won the First Division and he scored 30 league goals.”
Speaking as to why Furlong is such a good addition, he added:
“The squad was shaping up really well, but we were probably a little bit light in the final third of the pitch, particularly in and around the 18-yard box and that’s Danny’s game, being there when the ball drops and putting it in the back of the net, that’s what he’s best at.
“We’ve got a lot of creativity in the team and we have plenty of players that can create chances. Danny’s job will be to be in and around the box and to get on the end of those chances and that’s what he’s a natural at doing.”
Galway kick off their campaign for promotion at home against Athlone Town with a 7.45 kick-off on Friday night.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena